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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.

“And triples our expenses,” I prompted, laughing.

“And triples our expenses,” he repeated gravely.  “Talk about finding your affinity and all that sort of stuff!  Supposing the world to be a huge bag, as in reality it is; then take several hundred million blocks, representing human beings, and label each one by pairs, giving them a corresponding mark and color.  Then shake the whole bag violently, and you will admit that the chances of an encounter between the two with the same label are extremely slim.  It is just so with marriage.  It is all chance—­a heartless, aimless, and cruel lottery.  There are more valuable human lives wrecked every hour of the day in this dangerous game than by all the vices that barbarism or civilization has ever invented.”

I hazarded some feeble remonstrance against these revolutionary heresies (as I conceived them to be), but my opponent met me on all sides with his inflexible logic.  We spent several hours together without at all approaching an agreement, and finally parted with the promise to dine together and resume the discussion the next day.

This was the beginning of my acquaintance with the pessimist, Edmund Storm.

II.

    “Freundschaft, Liebe, Stein der Weisen,
    Diese Dreie hoert’ ich preisen,
    Und ich pries und suchte sie,
    Aber ach! ich fand sie nie.”—­HEINE.

During the next two years there was never a week, and seldom a day, when I did not see Storm.  We lunched together at a much-frequented restaurant not far from Wall street, and my friend’s sarcastic epigrams would do much to reconcile me to my temperance habits by supplying in a more ethereal form the stimulants with which others strove to facilitate or to ruin their digestions.

“Existence is even at best a doubtful boon,” he would say while he dissected his beefsteak with the seriousness of a scientific observer.  “A man’s philosophy is regulated by his stomach.  No amount of stoicism can reconcile a man to dyspepsia.  If our nationality were not by nature endowed with the digestion of a boa-constrictor, I should seriously consider the propriety of vanishing into the Nirvana.”

I often wondered what could be the secret of Storm’s liking for me; for that he liked me, in his own lugubrious fashion, there could be no doubt.  As for myself, I never could determine how far I reciprocated his feeling.  I should hardly say that I loved him, but his talk fascinated me, and it always irritated me to hear any one speak ill of him.  He was the very opposite of what the world calls “a good fellow;” he did not slap you on the shoulder and salute you with a “Hallo, old boy!” and I am inclined to think that he would have promptly resented any undue familiarity.  He was a man of the most exact habits, painfully conscientious in all his dealings, and absolutely devoid of vices, unless, indeed, his extravagance in the purchase of

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