During our continued intercourse, I naturally learned a good deal about my friend’s previous life and occupation. He was of very good family, had enjoyed an excellent university education, and had the finest prospects of a prosperous career at home, when, as far as I could ascertain, he took a sudden freak to emigrate. He had inherited a modest fortune, and now maintained himself as cashier in a large tea importing house in the city. He read the newspapers diligently, apparently with a view to convincing himself of the universal wretchedness of mankind in general and the American people in particular, had a profound contempt for ambition of every sort, believed nothing that life could offer worthy of an effort, except—old furniture.
In the autumn of 187- he was taken violently ill with inflammation of the lungs, and I naturally devoted every evening to him that I could spare from my work. He suffered acutely, but was perfectly calm and hardly ever moved a muscle.
“I seldom indulge in the luxury of whining,” he said to me once, as I was seated at his bedside. “But, if I should die, as I believe I shall, it would be a pity if the lesson of my life should be lost to humanity. It is the only valuable thing I leave behind me, except, perhaps, my furniture, which I bequeath to you.”
He lay for a while looking with grave criticism at his long, lean fingers, and then told me the following story, of which I shall give a brief resume.
* * * * *
Some ten years ago, while he was yet in the university, he had made the acquaintance of a young girl, Emily Gerstad, the daughter of a widow in whose house he lived. She was a wild unruly thing, full of coquettish airs, frivolous as a kitten, but for all that, a phenomenon of most absorbing interest. She was a blonde of the purest Northern type, with a magnificent wealth of thick curly hair and a pair of blue eyes, which seemed capable of expressing the very finest things that God ever deposited in a woman’s nature. It was useless to disapprove of her, and to argue with her on the error of her ways was a waste of breath: her moral nature was too fatally flexible. She