* * * * *
The next evening when dinner was at an end, Mr. Pfeifer proposed a walk in the park. Hildegard pleaded a headache, and wished to be excused.
“Nonsense, child,” said Pfeifer, with his usual good-humored peremptoriness. “If you have a headache, so much the more ought you to go. Put on your things now, and don’t keep us waiting any longer than you can help.”
Hildegard submitted with demure listlessness, and soon re-appeared in her walking costume.
The daylight had faded, and the evening was in its softest, most ethereal mood. The moon was drifting lazily among the light summer clouds, gazing down upon the many-voiced tumult of the crowded city, with that calm philosophic abstraction which always characterizes the moon, as if she, up there in her airy heights, were so infinitely exalted above all the distracting problems and doubts that harass our poor human existence. We entered a concert garden, which was filled with gayly dressed pleasure seekers; somewhere under the green roof of the trees an orchestra was discoursing strains of German music to a Teutonic audience.
“Donnerwetter!” said Pfeifer, enthusiastically; “that is the symphony in E flat; pretty well rendered too. Only hear that”—and he began to whistle the air softly, with lively gesticulations “Come, let us go nearer and listen.”
“No, let us stay here, uncle,” remonstrated Hildegard. “I don’t think it is quite nice to go so near. They are drinking beer there, and there are so many horrible people.”
“Nonsense, child! Where did you get all those silly whims from? Where it is respectable for your uncle to go, I am sure it won’t hurt you to follow.”
We made our way through the throng, and stationed ourselves under a tree, from which we had a full survey of the merry company, seated at small tables, with huge foam-crowned mugs of beer before them. Suddenly a voice, somewhat louder than the rest, disentangled itself from the vague, inarticulate buzz, which filled the air about us. Swift as a flash my eyes darted in the direction from which the voice came. There, within a few dozen steps from us, sat Dannevig between two gaudily attired women; another man was seated at the opposite side of the table, and between them stood a couple of bottles and several half-filled glasses. The sight was by no means new to me, and still, in that moment, it filled me with unspeakable disgust. The knight of Dannebrog was as charmingly free-and-easy as if he were nestled securely in the privacy of his own fireside; his fine plumes were deplorably ruffled, his hat thrust back, and his hair hanging in tangled locks down over his forehead; his eyes were heavy, and a smile of maudlin happiness played about his mouth.
“Now, don’t make yourself precious, my dear,” he was saying, laying his arm affectionately around the waist of the woman on his right. “I like German kisses. I speak from experience. Angels have no business to be—”