100 THE GOLOSHES OF FORTUNE
through a chink. It was a tavern of that date—a kind of beer-house. The room had the appearance of a farmhouse kitchen in Holstein ; a number of people, consisting of seamen, citizens of Copenhagen, and a few scholars, sat in deep conversation over their jugs, and paid little attention to the new-comer.
' I beg pardon,' said the councillor to the hostess, ' but I feel very unwell; would you let them get me a fly to go to Christian's Haven ? '
The woman looked at him and shook her head ; then she spoke to him in German.
The councillor now supposed that she did not understand Danish, so he repeated his wish in the German language. This, and his costume, convinced the woman that he was a foreigner. She soon understood that he felt unwell, and therefore brought him a jug of water. It certainly tasted a little of sea water, though it had been taken from the spring outside.
The councillor leaned his head on his hand, drew a deep breath, and thought of all the strange things that were happening about him.
' Is that to-day's number of the Day ? ' he said, quite mechanically, for he saw that the woman was putting away a large sheet of paper.
She did not understand what he meant, but handed him the leaf : it was a woodcut representing a strange appearance in the air which had been seen in the city of Cologne.
' That is very old ! ' said the councillor, who became quite cheerful at sight of this antiquity. ' How did you come by this strange leaf ? That is very interesting, although the whole thing is a fable. Nowadays these appearances are explained to be northern lights that have been seen ; probably they arise from electricity.'
Those who sat nearest to him and heard his speech, looked at him in surprise, and one of them rose, took off his hat respectfully, and said, with a very grave face, You must certainly be a very learned man, sir ! '
• Oh, no !' replied the councillor ; ' I can only say a word or two about things one ought to understand.'
• Modestia is a beautiful virtue,' said the man. ' More-