Ilka on the Hill-Top and Other Stories eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 200 pages of information about Ilka on the Hill-Top and Other Stories.
old furniture might be classed under that head.  To people of slipshod habits, his painstaking exactness was of course highly exasperating, and I often myself felt that he was in need of a redeeming vice.  If I could have induced him to smoke, take snuff, or indulge in a little innocent gambling, I believe it would have given me a good deal of satisfaction.  Once, I remember, I exerted myself to the utmost to beguile him into taking a humorous view of a mendacious tramp, who, after having treated us to a highly pathetic autobiography, importuned us for a quarter.  But no, Storm could see nothing but the moral hideousness of the man, lectured him severely, and would have sent him away unrewarded, if I had not temporarily suspended my principles.

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

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