7:40 pm - Saturday May 26, 2018

The Moment of Victory-by O Henry-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name:The Moment of Victory

Written by: O Henry

Category:Fiction, Classics

PAGE 1:

Ben Granger is a war veteran aged twenty-nine–which should enable you to guess the war. He is also principal merchant and postmaster of Cadiz, a little town over which the breezes from the Gulf of Mexico perpetually blow.

Ben helped to hurl the Don from his stronghold in the Greater Antilles; and then, hiking across half the world, he marched as a corporal-usher up and down the blazing tropic aisles of the open-air college in which the Filipino was schooled. Now, with his bayonet beaten into a cheese-slicer, he rallies his corporal’s guard of cronies in the shade of his well-whittled porch, instead of in the matted jungles of Mindanao. Always have his interest and choice been for deeds rather than for words; but the consideration and digestion of motives is not beyond him, as this story, which is his, will attest.

“What is it,” he asked me one moonlit eve, as we sat among his boxes and barrels, “that generally makes men go through dangers, and fire, and trouble, and starvation, and battle, and such rucouses? What does a man do it for? Why does he try to outdo his fellow-humans, and be braver and stronger and more daring and showy than even his best friends are? What’s his game? What does he expect to get out of it? He don’t do it just for the fresh air and exercise. What would you say, now, Bill, that an ordinary man expects, generally speaking, for his efforts along the line of ambition and extraordinary hustling in the marketplaces, forums, shooting-galleries, lyceums, battle-fields, links, cinder-paths, and arenas of the civilized and vice versa places of the world?”

“Well, Ben,” said I, with judicial seriousness, “I think we might safely limit the number of motives of a man who seeks fame to three-to ambition, which is a desire for popular applause; to avarice, which looks to the material side of success; and to love of some woman whom he either possesses or desires to possess.”

Ben pondered over my words while a mocking-bird on the top of a mesquite by the porch trilled a dozen bars.

“I reckon,” said he, “that your diagnosis about covers the case according to the rules laid down in the copy-books and historical readers. But what I had in my mind was the case of Willie Robbins, a person I used to know. I’ll tell you about him before I close up the store, if you don’t mind listening.

“Willie was one of our social set up in San Augustine. I was clerking there then for Brady & Murchison, wholesaledry-goods and ranch supplies. Willie and I belonged to the same german club and athletic association and military company. He played the triangle in our serenading and quartet crowd that used to ring the welkin three nights a week somewhere in town.

“Willie jibed with his name considerable. He weighed about as much as a hundred pounds of veal in his summer suitings, and he had a ‘where- is-Mary?’ expression on his features so plain that you could almost see the wool growing on him.

“And yet you couldn’t fence him away from the girls with barbed wire. You know that kind of young fellows-a kind of a mixture of fools and angels-they rush in and fear to tread at the same time; but they never fail to tread when they get the chance. He was always on hand when ‘a joyful occasion was had,’ as the morning paper would say, looking as happy as a king full, and at the same time as uncomfortable as a raw oyster served with sweet pickles. He danced like he had hind hobbles on; and he had a vocabulary of about three hundred and fifty words that he made stretch over four germans a week, and plagiarized from to get him through two ice-cream suppers and a Sunday-night call. He seemed to me to be a sort of a mixture of Maltese kitten, sensitive plant, and a member of a stranded Two Orphans company.

“I’ll give you an estimate of his physiological and pictorial make-up, and then I’ll stick spurs into the sides of my narrative.

“Willie inclined to the Caucasian in his coloring and manner of style. His hair was opalescent and his conversation fragmentary. His eyes were the same blue shade as the china dog’s on the right-hand corner of your Aunt Ellen’s mantelpiece. He took things as they come, and I never felt any hostility against him. I let him live, and so did others.

“But what does this Willie do but coax his heart out of his boots and lose it to Myra Allison, the liveliest, brightest, keenest, smartest, and prettiest girl in San Augustine. I tell you, she had the blackest eyes, the shiniest curls, and the most tantalizing– Oh, no, you’re off–I wasn’t a victim. I might have been, but I knew better. I kept out. Joe Granberry was It from the start. He had everybody else beat a couple of leagues and thence east to a stake and mound. But, anyhow, Myra was a nine-pound, full-merino, fall-clip fleece, sacked and loaded on a four-horse team for San Antone.

“One night there was an ice-cream sociable at Mrs. Colonel Spraggins’, in San Augustine. We fellows had a big room up-stairs opened up for us to put our hats and things in, and to comb our hair and put on the clean collars we brought along inside the sweat-bands of our hats-in short, a room to fix up in just like they have everywhere at high-toned doings. A little farther down the hall was the girls’ room, which they used to powder up in, and so forth. Downstairs we–that is, the San Augustine Social Cotillion and Merrymakers’ Club–had a stretcher put down in the parlor where our dance was going on.

“Willie Robbins and me happened to be up in our–cloak-room, I believe we called it when Myra Allison skipped through the hall on her way down-stairs from the girls’ room. Willie was standing before the mirror, deeply interested in smoothing down the blond grass-plot on his head, which seemed to give him lots of trouble. Myra was always full of life and devilment. She stopped and stuck her head in our door. She certainly was good-looking. But I knew how Joe Granberry stood with her. So did Willie; but he kept on ba-a-a-ing after her and following her around. He had a system of persistence that didn’t coincide with pale hair and light eyes.

“‘Hello, Willie!’ says Myra. ‘What are you doing to yourself in the glass?’

“I’m trying to look fly,’ says Willie.

“‘Well, you never could be fly,’ says Myra, with her special laugh, which was the provokingest sound I ever heard except the rattle of an empty canteen against my saddle-horn.

“I looked around at Willie after Myra had gone. He had a kind of a lily-white look on him which seemed to show that her remark had, as you might say, disrupted his soul. I never noticed anything in what she said that sounded particularly destructive to a man’s ideas of self-consciousness; but he was set back to an extent you could scarcely imagine.

“After we went down-stairs with our clean collars on, Willie never went near Myra again that night. After all, he seemed to be a diluted kind of a skim-milk sort of a chap, and I never wondered that Joe Granberry beat him out.

“The next day the battleship Maine was blown up, and then pretty soon somebody-I reckon it was Joe Bailey, or Ben Tillman, or maybe the Government-declared war against Spain.

“Well, everybody south of Mason & Hamlin’s line knew that the North by itself couldn’t whip a whole country the size of Spain. So the Yankees commenced to holler for help, and the Johnny Rebs answered the call. ‘We’re coming, Father William, a hundred thousand strong–and then some,’ was the way they sang it. And the old party lines drawn by Sherman’s march and the Kuklux and nine-cent cotton and the Jim Crow street-car ordinances faded away. We became one undivided. country, with no North, very little East, a good-sized chunk of West, and a South that loomed up as big as the first foreign label on a new eight-dollar suit-case.

“Of course the dogs of war weren’t a complete pack without a yelp from the San Augustine Rifles, Company D, of the Fourteenth Texas Regiment. Our company was among the first to land in Cuba and strike terror into the hearts of the foe. I’m not going to give you a history of the war, I’m just dragging it in to fill out my story about Willie Robbins, just as the Republican party dragged it in to help out the election in 1898.

“If anybody ever had heroitis, it was that Willie Robbins. From the minute he set foot on the soil of the tyrants of Castile he seemed to engulf danger as a cat laps up cream. He certainly astonished every man in our company, from the captain up. You’d have expected him to gravitate naturally to the job of an orderly to the colonel, or typewriter in the commissary–but not any. He created the part of the flaxen-haired boy hero who lives and gets back home with the goods, instead of dying with an important despatch in his hands at his colonel’s feet.

“Our company got into a section of Cuban scenery where one of the messiest and most unsung portions of the campaign occurred. We were out every day capering around in the bushes, and having little skirmishes with the Spanish troops that looked more like kind of tired-out feuds than anything else. The war was a joke to us, and of no interest to them. We never could see it any other way than as a howling farce-comedy that the San Augustine Rifles were actually fighting to uphold the Stars and Stripes. And the blamed little senors didn’t get enough pay to make them care whether they were patriots or traitors. Now and then somebody would get killed. It seemed like a waste of life to me. I was at Coney Island when I went to New York once, and one of them down-hill skidding apparatuses they call ‘roller-coasters’ flew the track and killed a man in a brown sack-suit. Whenever the Spaniards shot one of our men, it struck me as just about as unnecessary and regrettable as that was.

“But I’m dropping Willie Robbins out of the conversation.

“He was out for bloodshed, laurels, ambition, medals, recommendations, and all other forms of military glory. And he didn’t seem to be afraid of any of the recognized forms of military danger, such as Spaniards, cannon-balls, canned beef, gunpowder, or nepotism. He went forth with his pallid hair and china-blue eyes and ate up Spaniards like you would sardines a la canopy. Wars and rumbles of wars never flustered him. He would stand guard-duty, mosquitoes, hardtack, treat, and fire with equally perfect unanimity. No blondes in history ever come in comparison distance of him except the Jack of Diamonds and Queen Catherine of Russia.

“I remember, one time, a little caballard of Spanish men sauntered out from behind a patch of sugar-cane and shot Bob Turner, the first sergeant of our company, while we were eating dinner. As required by the army regulations, we fellows went through the usual tactics of falling into line, saluting the enemy, and loading and firing, kneeling.

“That wasn’t the Texas way of scrapping; but, being a very important addendum and annex to the regular army, the San Augustine Rifles had to conform to the red-tape system of getting even.

“By the time we had got out our ‘Upton’s Tactics,’ turned to page fifty-seven, said ‘one–two–three–one–two–three’ a couple of times, and got blank cartridges into our Springfields, the Spanish outfit had smiled repeatedly, rolled and lit cigarettes by squads, and walked away contemptuously.

“I went straight to Captain Floyd, and says to him: ‘Sam, I don’t think this war is a straight game. You know as well as I do that Bob Turner was one of the whitest fellows that ever threw a leg over a saddle, and now these wirepullers in Washington have fixed his clock. He’s politically and ostensibly dead. It ain’t fair. Why should they keep this thing up? If they want Spain licked, why don’t they turn the San Augustine Rifles and Joe Seely’s ranger company and a car-load of West Texas deputy-sheriffs onto these Spaniards, and let us exonerate them from the face of the earth? I never did,’ says I, ‘care much about fighting by the Lord Chesterfield ring rules. I’m going to hand in my resignation and go home if anybody else I am personally acquainted with gets hurt in this war. If you can get somebody in my place, Sam,’ says I, ‘I’ll quit the first of next week. I don’t want to work in an army that don’t give its help a chance. Never mind my wages,’ says I; ‘let the Secretary of the Treasury keep ’em.’

Filed in: Classics, Fiction

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