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.

“Well,” he answered, evasively, “I should hardly say that.  It is rather your detestable democratic cookery which has undone me.  I haven’t had a decent meal since I set my foot on this accursed continent.  There is an all-pervading plebeian odor of republicanism about everything one eats here, which is enough to ruin the healthiest appetite, and a certain barbaric uniformity in the bill of fare which would throw even a Diogenes into despair.  May the devil take your leathery beef-steaks, as tough as the prose of Tacitus, your tasteless, nondescript buckwheats, and your heavy, melancholy wines, and I swear it would be the last you would hear of him!”

“There! that will do, Dannevig!” I cried, laughing.  “You have said more than enough to convince me of your identity.  I do admit I was sceptical as to whether this could really be you, but you have dispelled my last doubts.  It was my intention to invite you to dine with me to-day but you have quite discouraged me.  I live quite en garcon, you know, and have no Chateau Yquem nor pheasant a la Sainte Alliance, and whatever else your halcyon days at the Cafe Anglais may have accustomed you to.”

“Never mind that.  Your company will in part reconcile me to the republicanism of your table.  And, to put the thing bluntly, can you lend me thirty dollars?  I have pawned my only respectable suit of clothes for that amount, and in my present costume I feel inexpressibly plebeian,—­very much as if I were my own butler, and—­what is worse—­I treat myself accordingly.  I never knew until now how much of the inherent dignity of a man can be divested with his clothing.  Then another thing:  I am absolutely forced to do something, and, judging by your looks, I should say that journalism was a profitable business.  Now, could you not get me some appointment or other in connection with your paper?  If, for instance, you want a Paris correspondent, then I am just your man.  I know Paris by heart, and I have hobnobbed with every distinguished man in France.”

“But we could hardly afford to pay you enough to justify you in taking the journey on our account.”

O sancta simplicitas!  No, my boy, I have no such intention.  I can make up the whole thing with perfect plausibility, here under your own roof; and by little study of the foreign telegrams, I would undertake to convince Thiers and Jules Favre themselves that I watched the play of their features from my private box at the French opera, night before last, that I had my eye at the key-hole while they performed their morning ablutions, and was present as eavesdropper at their most secret councils.  Whatever I may be, I hope you don’t take me to be a chicken.”

“No,” I answered, beguiled into a lighter mood by his own levity.  “It might be well for you if you were more of one.  But as Paris correspondent, we could never engage you, at least not on the terms you propose.  But even if I should succeed in getting a place for you, do you know English enough to write with ease?”

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