“As regards South America, I never could detect its use in the cosmic economy, unless it was flung down there in the southern hemisphere purely as ballast, to prevent the globe from upsetting.
“Now, the moral of these edifying remarks is that I would urge my guest to correct, as soon as possible, the mistake he made in the choice of his birthplace. As a man never can be too circumspect in the selection of his parents, so neither can he exercise too much caution in the choice of his country. My last word to thee is: ’Fold thy tent, and pitch it again where mankind, politics and cookery are in a more advanced state of development.’ Friends, let us drink to the health of our guest, and wish for his speedy return.”
I replied with, perhaps, some superfluous ardor to this supercilious speech, and a very hot discussion ensued. When the company finally broke up, Dannevig, fearing that he had offended me, laid his arm confidentially on my shoulder, drew me back from the door, and pushed me gently into an easy-chair.
“Look here!” he said, planting himself in front of me. “It will never do for you and me to part, except as friends. I did not mean to patronize you, and if my foolish speech impressed you in that way, I beg you to forgive me.”
He held out his long, beautiful hand, which after some hesitation I grasped, and peace was concluded.
“Take another cigar,” he continued, throwing himself down on a damask-covered lounge opposite me. “I am in a confiding mood to-night, and should like to tell you something. I feel an absolute need to unbosom myself, and Fate points to you as the only safe receptacle of my confidence. After to-morrow, the Atlantic will be between us, and if my secret should prove too explosive for your reticence, your indiscretion will do me no harm. Listen, then. You have probably heard the town gossip connecting my name with that of the Countess von Brehm.”
I nodded assent.
“Well, my modesty forbids me to explain how far the rumor is true. But, the fact is, she has given me the most unmistakable proofs of her favor. Of course, a man who has seen as much of the world as I have cannot be expected to reciprocate such a passion in its sentimental aspects; but from its—what shall I say?”