"A good piece of work have you two done out there before the entrance.
The Tribune, whom we have sought everywhere, he fell certainly by thy hand. I have found thee at last, young hero! Welcome news I bring thee.
A messenger from thy father is seeking thee. The Roman fortress on the Regan stream has fallen. My cousin, Duke Agilolf, and thy father, have settled the betrothal: Agilolf invites thee to his halls. Adalagardis, the most beautiful princely daughter of the Germans, is awaiting thee."
"Hail to thee, thou son of my king! this is thy reward for this night,"
"Betrothal! I have never seen her!" cried Liuthari, hesitating.
"Betrothal! yes, if you please each other," said the Duke.
"_He_ will certainly please _her_." said Haduwalt, clapping the blushing youth on the shoulder; "and I hope," whispered he quietly in his ear, "that _she_, the beauty whom thou _mayest_ love, will right well please _thee_."
"Choose now," continued the Duke, "what thou wilt of the booty. To you Alemanni, to thee above all, do we owe the victory."
"I will follow thee," said Liuthari, rising hastily. "Help me, old friend!"
The armour-master helped him to buckle on his breastplate; the young man raised the beautifully-shaped Roman helmet with the towering heron's plume to his head. Magnificent stood the king's son, his joyful countenance radiant with the n.o.blest sentiments.
"Oh, now all is well," rejoiced Fulvius. "The Tribune is slain; Zeno the usurer is dead, murdered by an unknown hand, without doubt by his slaves, so Johannes tells me. There is no longer an Emperor in Ravenna; we were assured of this yesterday morning by this young hero. Now am I free from all debts to the Fiscus."
"And no less do I assure thee," laughed Liuthari, "that this powerful Duke here has stepped into the Emperor's place--_his_ debtor art thou now."
Fulvius anxiously put his hand to his right ear, and looked dismayed at the mighty man.
"Fear not," continued Liuthari. "I ask, Duke Garibrand, as a part of my share of the booty, this villa and the land belonging to it. And free from all debt."
"It shall be as thou hast said," answered the Bajuvaren.
"And to you both, Fulvius and Felicitas, I give this free property, before these seven free men as witnesses. Their oath will be of service to you if anyone should contest your right and warrant."
"Thanks, sir; thanks."
"Thou art, then, Fulvius the stone-mason?" interposed the Duke. "The priest Johannes commended thee to me as faithful and brave; if thou dost prove thyself so, I will place thee as steward over my lands outside this gate."
Felicitas, after a short whispering with her husband, now stepped towards Liuthari, with the child on her arm. She blushed faintly, and said:
"Sir, he who gives so much as thou--must give still more. Our little son has not yet a name. Next Sunday I shall take him to Johannes, to the font. How shall the boy be named?"
"Felix Fulvius," said the king's son, deeply moved, laying his hand on the tiny head, "and--_Liuthari_, in order that my name may yet strike many times on your ear. But he who gives a name, gives also a present--that is German custom. Here, young housewife, take this ring.
I stripped it from the finger of a patrician some years ago, whom I slew in battle. In Augusta Vindelicorum the dealers say it is worth as much as half their town. That is a bit of treasure in case of need. And now, both of you, farewell!"
"Stop!" here cried Haduwalt; "we do not thus bid farewell--farewell for life! Thou didst ask, stone-mason, how thou couldst thank the hero. Let thy young wife give him one kiss; believe me, he has deserved it--he is a gallant youth!"
Fulvius led his blushing wife towards him.
Liuthari pressed a kiss on the white brow, and cried: "Farewell, thou lovely one, for ever!"
And already he was gone: the curtain rustled behind him. The other Germans followed; at the garden entrance they mounted their horses and galloped quickly back towards the Porta Vindelica.
The first thing that Fulvius did, after he had with Philemon removed the dead bodies, was carefully to reset the stone with the inscription, into the pavement of the entrance; the broken-off corner he left unset.
"It shall," said he, "for ever be to us a proof how effectual the adage has been."
And the adage, it proved itself true to the wedded pair through their whole life.
No misfortune crossed that threshold while they dwelt there. Blooming sons and daughters grew up after Felix Fulvius Liuthari. Sickness never befell them, parents or children, although the pestilence might be raging in Juvavum and in the villas round about.
The Ivarus often overflowed, spreading its waves and destruction over men, animals, horses, and grain. Before this gate, before the Mercurius Hill, it each time stopped.
A landslip overwhelmed the neighbours' gardens right and left. An immense piece of rock rebounded from the inscription stone, and was shattered into a thousand fragments. Fulvius became "Villicus" of all the ducal property in Juvavum, and stood, on account of his prudence and fidelity, high in the favour of Duke Garibrand.
When he and Felicitas had become quite old people, fully eighty years of age, but active and vigorous, they were sitting one June evening hand in hand in the garden. They had had a seat made just within the entrance, so that their feet rested on the adage-stone.
Thus they sat, and thought of past times. Sweetly sang the golden oriole in the neighbouring beech forest. But it gradually became silent, for the air had become very sultry; a storm was approaching.
There was a vivid flash of lightning, and a tremendous peal of thunder.
The children hastened to bring their old parents into the house.
But when Felix Fulvius Liuthari, hurrying in advance of the others, reached them, he found them both dead.
A flash of lightning had killed them both.
They still held each other hand in hand, and smiled, as if to say: "Death, which comes thus, is no misfortune, but a blessing."