Ilka on the Hill-Top and Other Stories eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 161 pages of information about Ilka on the Hill-Top and Other Stories.
kept wrangling and fighting, each threatening to burn the house over the other’s head if he dared to take possession of it.  The matter was finally adjusted by the opportune intervention of a neighbor who stood in high repute for wisdom.  At his suggestion, they should each plant side by side a twig or sprout of some tree or herb, and he to whose plant God gave growth should be the owner of the farm.  This advice was accepted; for God, both thought, was a safer arbiter than man.  One of the brothers, Arne, chose a fern (Ormgrass), and the other, Ulf, a sweet-brier.  A week later, they went with the wise man and two other neighbors to the remote pasture at the edge of the glacier where, by common consent, they had made their appeal to the judgment of heaven.  Arne’s fern stood waving in dewy freshness in the morning breeze; but Ulf’s sweet-brier lay prostrate upon the ground, as if uprooted by some hostile hand.  The eyes of the brothers met in a long, ill-boding glance.

“This is not heaven’s judgment,” muttered Ulf, under his breath.  “Methinks I know the hand that has wrought this dastardly deed.”

The umpires, unmindful of the charge, examined the uprooted twig, and decided that some wild animal must have trodden upon it.  Accordingly they awarded the farm to Arne.  Then swifter than thought Ulf’s knife flew from its sheath; Arne turned pale as death and quivered like an aspen leaf.  The umpires rushed forward to shield him.  There was a moment of breathless suspense.  Then Ulf with a wild shout hurled his knife away, and leaped over the brink of the precipice down into the icy gulf below.  A remote hollow rumbling rose from the abyss, followed by a deeper stillness.  The men peered out over the edge of the rock; the glacier lay vast and serene, with its cold, glittering surface glaring against the sky, and a thousand minute rivulets filled the air with their melodious tinkling.

“God be his judge and yours,” said the men to Arne, and hastened away.

From that day Arne received the surname Ormgrass (literally Wormgrass, Fern), and his farm was called the Ormgrass farm.  And the name has clung to his descendants until this day.  Somehow, since the death of Ulf, the family had never been well liked, and in their proud seclusion, up under the eternal ice-fields, they sought their neighbors even less than they were themselves sought.  They were indeed a remarkably handsome race, of a light build, with well-knit frames, and with a touch of that wild grace which makes a beast of prey seem beautiful and dangerous.

In the beginning of the present century Arne’s grandson, Gudmund Ormgrass, was the bearer of the family name and the possessor of the estate.  As ill luck would have it, his two sons, Arne and Tharald, both wooed the same maiden,—­the fairest and proudest maiden in all the parish.  After long wavering she at last was betrothed to Arne, as some thought, because he, being the elder, was the heir to the farm.  But in less than a year, some two weeks before the wedding was to be, she bore a child; and Arne was not its father.

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Ilka on the Hill-Top and Other Stories from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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