As the hours of the night advanced, Dannevig’s brilliancy rose to an almost dangerous height, which, as it appeared to us, could end in nothing short of an explosion. And the explosion came at last in the shape of a speech which I shall quote as nearly as the long lapse of years will permit.
After some mysterious pantomimic play directed toward a singularly noiseless and soft-mannered butler, our host arose, assumed an attitude as if he were about to address the universe, and spoke as follows:
“Gentlemen! As our distinguished friend here (all Americans, as you are aware, are born sovereigns and accordingly distinguished) is about to leave us, the spirit moves me to give voice to the feeling which animates us all at this peculiar juncture of events.” (Here the butler returned with two bottles, which Dannevig seized and held up for general inspection.) “Bravo! here I hold in my hand a rare and potent juice, the condensed essence of all that is rich and fair and sweet in the history, character, and climate of la belle France, a juice for which the mouths of princes have often watered in vain—in short a bottle of Chateau Yquem. I have my reasons for plucking the fairest bloom of my cellar on an occasion like this: for what I am about to say is not entirely in the nature of a compliment, and the genial influence of this royal wine will be needed to counteract the possible effects of my speech. In other words, I want the goodness of my wine to compensate for the rudeness of my intended remarks.
“America has never until now had the benefit of my opinion of her, which may in part account for the crudeness of her present condition. Now she has sent a competent emissary to us, who will return and faithfully report my sentiments, and if he does his work well, you may be prepared for revolutions beyond the Atlantic in decades to come. To begin with the beginning: the American continent, extending as it does from pole to pole, with a curious attenuation in the middle, always looked to me in my boyhood as a huge double bag flung across the back of the world; the symbolic sense of this form was not then entirely clear to me; but now, I think, I divine its meaning. As the centuries with their changing civilizations rolled over Europe, it became apparent to the Almighty that a spacious lumber-room was needed, where all the superfluous odds and ends that no longer fitted to the changed order of things might be stowed away for safe-keeping. Now, as you will frequently in a lumber-room, amid a deal of absolute dross, stumble upon an object of rare and curious value, so also in America you may, among heaps of human trumpery, be startled by the sparkle of a genuine human jewel. Our friend here, I need not add, is such a jewel, though cut according to the fashion of the last century, when men went wild over liberty and other illusory ideals and when, after having exhausted all the tamer kinds of dissipation, they amused themselves by cutting