A GOOD-FOR-NOTHING -------------------- BY HJALMAR HJORTH BOYESEN
Hjalmar Hjorth Boyescn (born at Frederiksvaern, Norway, September 23, 1848; died in 1895) was a university graduate who came to this country in 1869 to take a professorship of languages in a small Ohio college. Soon after he was called to Cornell, and in 1882 he became Professor of German in Columbia. His proficiency in the English language was phenomenal. His mastery of scholarly English in the essay form was to be expected, but his ready command of the delicately shaded style required of a literary novelist has not been equaled by any other naturalized American author. Hence in this series he has received citizenship among those to the manner born. The story selected by his son, as representative of his work in brief fiction, is a fine study of character, with a pathetic ending, whose poignancy is due to its fidelity to truth.
BY HJALMAR HJORTH BOYESEN
[Footnote: By permission of Charles Scribner’s Sons. Copyright, 1876,
by James R. Osgood & Co.]
Ralph Grim was born a gentleman. He had the misfortune of coming into the world some ten years later than might reasonably have been expected. Colonel Grim and his lady had celebrated twelve anniversaries of their wedding-day, and had given up all hopes of ever having a son and heir, when this late comer startled them by his unexpected appearance. The only previous addition to the family had been a daughter, and she was then ten summers old.
Ralph was a very feeble child, and could only with great difficulty be persuaded to retain his hold of the slender thread which bound him to existence. He was rubbed with whiskey, and wrapped in cotton, and given mare’s milk to drink, and God knows what not, and the Colonel swore a round oath of paternal delight when at last the infant stopped gasping in that distressing way and began to breathe like other human beings. The mother, who, in spite of her anxiety for the child’s life, had found time to plot for him a career of future magnificence, now suddenly set him apart for literature, because that was the easiest road to fame, and disposed of him in marriage to one of the most distinguished families of the land. She cautiously suggested this to her husband when he came to take his seat at her bedside; but to her utter astonishment she found that he had been indulging a similar train of thought, and had already destined the infant prodigy for the army. She, however, could not give up her predilection for literature, and the Colonel, who could not bear to be contradicted in his own house, as he used to say, was getting every minute louder and more flushed, when, happily, the doctor’s arrival interrupted the dispute.