“I am happy to say,” I answered, “that I am so well familiar with Mr. Dannevig’s adventures as to be quite competent to supplement his fragmentary statements. I shall be very happy to continue the entertainment—”
“Sacr—r-r-e nom de Dieu!” Dannevig burst forth, leaping up from his seat. “This is more than I can bear!” and he pulled a card from his portmonnaie and flung it down on the table before me. “May I request the honor of a meeting?” he continued, in a calmer voice. “It is high time that we two should settle our difficulties in the only way in which they are capable of adjustment.”
“Mr. Dannevig,” I replied, with a cool irony which I was far from feeling, “the first rule of the code of honor, to which you appeal, is, as you are aware, that the combatants must be equals in birth and station. Now, you boast of being of royal blood, while I have no such claim to distinction. You see, therefore, that your proposition is absurd.”
Miss Hildegard had in the meanwhile risen to take my proffered arm, and with a profound bow to the indignant hero we moved out of the room. During our homeward ride hardly a word was spoken; the wheels rattled away over the uneven pavement and the coachman snapped his whip, while we sat in opposite corners of the carriage, each pursuing his or her own lugubrious train of thought. But as we had mounted together the steps to Mr. Pfeifer’s mansion, and I was applying her latchkey to the lock, she suddenly held out her hand to me, and I grasped it eagerly and held it close in mine.
“Really,” she said in a tone of conciliation, “I like you too well to wish to quarrel with you. Won’t you please tell me candidly why you objected to my dancing with Mr. Dannevig?”
“With all my heart,” I responded warmly; “if you will give me the opportunity. In the meanwhile you will have to accept my reasons on trust, and believe that they were very weighty. You may feel assured that I should not have run the risk of offending you, if I had not felt convinced that Dannevig is a man whose acquaintance no young lady can claim with impunity. I have known him for many years, and I do not speak rashly.”
“I am afraid you are a very severe judge,” she murmured sadly. “Good-night.”
During the next months many rumors of Dannevig’s excesses reached me from various sources. He had obtained a position as interpreter for one of the Immigration Companies, and made semi-monthly excursions to Quebec, taking charge of the immigrants, and conducting them to Chicago. The opportunity for revealing his past history to Miss Pfeifer somehow never presented itself, although I continued to call frequently, and spent many delightful evenings with her and her uncle. However, I consoled myself with the reflection that the occasion for such a revelation no longer existed, and I had no desire needlessly to persecute a man