was unflinching in her devotion to him, and he
would probably long ago have led her to the altar,
if her family had not so bitterly opposed him.
The old count, it is said, swore that he would disinherit
her if she ever mentioned his name to him again; and
those who know him feel confident that he would
have kept his word. The countess, however,
was quite willing to make that sacrifice, for Dannevig’s
sake; but here, unfortunately, that cowardly prudence
of his made a fool of him. He hesitated and hesitated
long enough to wear out the patience of a dozen
women less elevated and heroic than she is.
Now the story goes that the old count, wishing at
all hazards to get him out of the way, made him a definite
proposition to pay all his debts, and give him a
handsome surplus for travelling expenses, if he
would consent to vanish from the kingdom for a
stated term of years. And according to all appearances
Dannevig has been fool enough to accept the offer.
I should not be surprised if you would hear from
him before long, in which case I trust you will
keep me informed of his movements. A Knight
of Dannebrog, you know, is too conspicuous a figure
to be entirely lost beneath the waves of your all-levelling
democracy. Depend upon it, if Dannevig were
stranded upon a desert isle, he would in some way
contrive to make the universe aware of his existence.
He has, as you know, no talent for obscurity; there
is a spark of a Caesar in him, and I tremble for
the fate of your constitution if he stays long
enough among you.”
Four months elapsed after the receipt of this letter,
and I had almost given up the expectation (I will
not say hope) of seeing Dannevig, when one morning
the door to my office was opened, and a tall, blonde-haired
man entered. With a certain reckless grace, which
ought to have given me the clue to his identity, he
sauntered up to my desk and extended his hand to me.
“Hallo, old boy!” he said, with a weak,
weary smile. “How are you prospering?
You don’t seem to know me.”
“Heavens!” I cried, “Dannevig!
No, I didn’t know you. How you have altered!”
He took off his hat, and flung himself into a chair
opposite me. His large, irresponsible eyes fixed
themselves upon mine, with a half-daring, half-apologetic
look, as if he were resolved to put the best face
on a desperate situation. His once so ambitious
mustache drooped despondingly, and his unshaven face
had an indescribably withered and dissipated look.
All the gloss seemed to have been taken off it, and
with it half its beauty and all its dignity had departed.
“Dannevig,” I said, with all the sympathy
I had at my command, “what has happened
to you? Am I to take your word for it, that you
have quarrelled with all the world, and that this
is your last refuge?”