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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 161 pages of information about Ilka on the Hill-Top and Other Stories.
He bore himself with that unconscious grace which people are apt to call aristocratic, being apparently never encumbered by any superfluity of arms and legs.  His features, whatever their ethnological value might be, were, at all events, decidedly handsome; but if they were typical of anything, they told unmistakably that their possessor was a man of culture.  They showed none of that barbaric frankness which, like a manufacturer’s label, flaunts in the face of all humanity the history of one’s origin, race, and nationality.  Culture is hostile to type; it humanizes the ferocious jaw-bones of the Celt, blanches the ruddy lustre of the Anglo-Saxon complexion, contracts the abdominal volume of the Teuton, and subdues the extravagant angularities of Brother Jonathan’s stature and character.  Although respecting this physiognomic reticence on the part of Mr. Fern, we dare not leave the reader in ignorance regarding the circumstances of which he was the unconscious result.

After his flight from Norway, Arne Ormgrass had roamed about for several months as “a wanderer and a vagabond upon the earth,” until, finally, he settled down in New Orleans, where he entered into partnership with a thrifty young Swede, and established a hotel, known as the “Sailors’ Valhalla.”  Fortune favored him:  his reckless daring, his ready tongue, and, above all, his extraordinary beauty soon gained him an enviable reputation.  Money became abundant, the hotel was torn down and rebuilt with the usual barbaric display of mirrors and upholstery, and the landlords began to aspire for guests of a higher degree.  Then, one fine day, a young lady, with a long French name and aristocratic antecedents, fell in love with Arne, not coolly and prudently, as northern damsels do, but with wildly tragic gesticulations and a declamatory ardor that were superb to behold.  To the Norseman, however, a passion of this degree of intensity was too novel to be altogether pleasing; he felt awed and bewildered,—­standing, as he did, for the first time in his life in the presence of a veritable mystery.  By some chance their clandestine meetings were discovered.  The lady’s brother shot at Arne, who returned the shot with better effect; then followed elopement—­marriage—­return to the bosom of the family, and a final grand tableau with parental blessing and reconciliation.

From that time forth, Arne Fern, as he was called (his Norse name having simply been translated into English), was a man of distinction.  After the death of his father-in-law, in 1859, he sold his Louisiana property and emigrated with his wife and three children to San Francisco, where by successful real-estate investments he greatly increased his wealth.  His eldest son, Maurice, was, at his own request, sent to the Eastern States, where educational advantages were greater; he entered, in due time, one of the best and oldest universities, and, to the great disappointment of his father, contracted a violent enthusiasm for natural science.  Being convinced, however, that remonstrance was vain, the old gentleman gradually learned to look with a certain vague respect upon his son’s enigmatical pursuits, and at last surprised the latter by “coming down quite handsomely” when funds were required for a geological excursion to Norway.

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