By Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen
By Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen
By permission of Charles Scribner's Sons.
Ralph Grimm 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.
As Ralph grew up from infancy to childhood, he began to give decided
promise of future distinction. He was fond of sitting down in a corner
and sucking his thumb, which his mother interpreted as the sign of that
brooding disposition peculiar to poets and men of lofty genius. At the
age of five, he had become sole master in the house. He slapped his
sister Hilda in the face, or pulled her hair, when she hesitated to
obey him, tyrannized over his nurse, and sternly refused to go to bed in
spite of his mother's entreaties. On such occasions, the Colonel would
hide his face behind his newspaper, and chuckle with delight; it was
evident that nature had intended his son for a great military commander.
As soon as Ralph himself was old enough to have any thoughts about his
future destiny, he made up his mind that he would like to be a pirate.
A few months later, having contracted an immoderate taste for candy, he
contented himself with the comparatively humble position of a baker; but
when he had read "Robinson Crusoe" he manifested a strong desire to go
to sea in the hope of being wrecked on some desolate island. The parents
spent long evenings gravely discussing these indications of uncommon
genius, and each interpreted them in his or her own way.
"He is not like any other child I ever knew," said the mother.
"To be sure," responded the father, earnestly. "He is a most
extraordinary child. I was a very remarkable child too, even if I do say
it myself; but, as far as I remember, I never aspired to being wrecked
on an uninhabited island."
The Colonel probably spoke the truth; but he forgot to take into account
that he had never read "Robinson Crusoe."
Of Ralph's school-days there is but little to report, for, to tell the
truth, he did not fancy going to school, as the discipline annoyed him.
The day after his having entered the gymnasium, which was to prepare
him for the Military Academy, the principal saw him waiting at the gate
after his class had been dismissed. He approached him, and asked why he
did not go home with the rest.
"I am waiting for the servant to carry
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