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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.

“You would not wish to see things as they are, then,” whispered she, while the sweetest smile stole over her blushing face.

“Oh, no, no!” exclaimed I.  “But what would you ask, Mabel?”

“I,” answered she, “would ask the fairy to give me a husband who loved me well, if—­if his name was—­Jamie.”

A little before supper-time we both stole on tip-toe into the professor’s study.  He was writing, as usual, and did not notice us.  Mabel went up to his chair from behind and gently put her hands over his eyes, and asked if he could guess who it was.  He, of course, guessed all the names he could think of, except the right one.

“Papa,” said Mabel, at last, restoring to him once more the use of his eyes, “Jamie and I have something we want to tell you.”

“And what is it, my dear?” asked the professor, turning round on his chair, and staring at us as if he expected something extraordinary.

“I don’t want to say it aloud,” said Mabel.  “I want to whisper it.”

“And I, too,” echoed I.

And so we both put our mouths, one on each side, to the professor’s ears, and whispered.

“But,” exclaimed the old man, as soon as he could recover his breath, “you must bear in mind that life is not a play,—­that—­that life is not what it seems—­”

“No, but Mabel is,” said I.

“Is,—­is what?”

“What she seems,” cried I.

And then we both laughed; and the professor kissed Mabel, shook my hand, and at last all laughed.

HOW MR. STORM MET HIS DESTINY.

I.

    Huet’ dich vor Maegdelein,
    Soehnelein, Soehnelein.—­HEINE.

I do not know why people always spoke of my friend Edmund Storm as a confirmed bachelor, considering the fact that he was not far on the shady side of thirty.  It is true, he looked considerably older, and had to all appearances entered that bloomless and sapless period which with women is called “uncertain age.”  Nevertheless, I had a private conviction that Storm might some fine day shed this dry and shrunken chrysalis, and emerge in some brilliant and unexpected form.  I cannot imagine what ground I had for such a belief; I only know that I always felt called upon to combat the common illusion that he was by nature and temperament set apart for eternal celibacy, or even that he had ceased to be agitated by matrimonial aspirations.  I dimly felt that there was a sort of refined cruelty in thus excluding a man from the common lot of the race; men often have pity but seldom love for those who either from eccentricity or peculiar excellence separate themselves from the broad, warm current of human life, having no part in the errors, ideals, and aspirations of their more commonplace brethren.  Even a slight deviation from the physical type of common manhood and womanhood, as for instance, the possession of a sixth toe or finger, would in the eyes of the multitude go far toward making a man morally objectionable.  It was, perhaps, because I wished to save my friend Storm from this unenviable lot that I always contended that he was yet a promising candidate for matrimony.

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