3:16 pm - Thursday January 20, 5611

The Whirlgig of Life-by O Henry-Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name: The Whirlgig Of life

Written by: O Henry

Category:Fiction, Short Stories, Short Novel

Page 1:

JUSTICE-OF-THE-PEACE Benaja Widdup sat in the door of his office smoking his elder-stem pipe. Halfway to the zenith the Cumberland range rose blue-gray in the afternoon haze. A speckled hen swaggered down the main street of the “settlement,” cackling foolishly.

Up the road came a sound of creaking axles, and then a slow cloud of dust, and then a bull-cart bearing Ransie Bilbro and his wife. The cart stopped at the Justice’s door, and the two climbed down. Ransie was a narrow six feet of sallow brown skin and yellow hair. The imperturbability of the mountains hung upon him like a suit of armour. The woman was calicoed, angled, snuff-brushed, and weary with unknown desires. Through it all gleamed a faint protest of cheated youth unconscious of its loss.

The Justice of the Peace slipped his feet into his shoes, for the sake of dignity, and moved to let them enter.

“We-all,” said the woman, in a voice like the wind blowing through pine boughs, “wants a divo’ce.” She looked at Ransie to see if he noted any flaw or ambiguity or evasion or partiality or self-partisanship in her statement of their business.

“A divo’ce,” repeated Ransie, with a solemn Dod. “We-all can’t git along together nohow. It’s lonesome enough fur to live in the mount’ins when a man and a woman keers fur one another. But when she’s a-spittin’ like a wildcat or a-sullenin’ like a hoot-owl in the cabin, a man ain’t got no call to live with her.”

“When he’s a no-‘count varmint,” said the woman, “without any especial warmth, a-traipsin’ along of scalawags and moonshiners and a-layin’ on his back pizen ‘ith co’n whiskey, and a-pesterin’ folks with a pack o’ hungry, triflin’ houn’s to feed!”

“When she keeps a-throwin’ skillet lids,” came Ransie’s antiphony, “and slings b’ilin’ water on the best coon-dog in the Cumberlands, and sets herself agin’ cookin’ a man’s victuals, and keeps him awake o’ nights accusin’ him of a sight of doin’s!”

“When he’s al’ays a-fightin’ the revenues, and gits a hard name in the mount’ins fur a mean man, who’s gwine to be able fur to sleep o’ nights?”

The Justice of the Peace stirred deliberately to his duties. He placed his one chair and a wooden stool for his petitioners. He opened his book of statutes on the table and scanned the index. Presently he wiped his spectacles and shifted his inkstand.

“The law and the statutes,” said he, “air silent on the subjeck of divo’ce as fur as the jurisdiction of this co’t air concerned. But, accordin’ to equity and the Constitution and the golden rule, it’s a bad barg’in that can’t run both ways. If a justice of the peace can marry a couple, it’s plain that he is bound to be able to divo’ce ’em. This here office will issue a decree of divo’ce and abide by the decision of the Supreme Co’t to hold it good.”

Ransie Bilbro drew a small tobacco-bag from his trousers pocket. Out of this he shook upon the table a five-dollar note. “Sold a b’arskin and two foxes fur that,” he remarked. “It’s all the money we got.”

“The regular price of a divo’ce in this co’t,” said the Justice, “air five dollars.” He stuffed the bill into the pocket of his homespun vest with a deceptive air of indifference. With much bodily toil and mental travail he wrote the decree upon half a sheet of foolscap, and then copied it upon the other. Ransie Bilbro and his wife listened to his reading of the document that was to give them freedom:

“Know all men by these presents that Ransie Bilbro and his wife, Ariela Bilbro, this day personally appeared before me and promises that hereinafter they will neither love, honour, nor obey each other, neither for better nor worse, being of sound mind and body, and accept summons for divorce according to the peace and dignity of the State. Herein fail not, so help you God. Benaja Widdup, justice of the peace in and for the county of Piedmont, State of Tennessee.”

The Justice was about to hand one of the documents to Ransie. The voice of Ariela delayed the transfer. Both men looked at her. Their dull masculinity was confronted by something sudden and unexpected in the woman.

“Judge, don’t you give him that air paper yit. ‘Tain’t all settled, nohow. I got to have my rights first. I got to have my ali-money. ‘Tain’t no kind of a way to do fur a man to divo’ce his wife ‘thout her havin’ a cent fur to do with. I’m a-layin’ off to be a-goin’ up to brother Ed’s up on Hogback Mount’in. I’m bound fur to hev a pa’r of shoes and some snuff and things besides. Ef Rance kin affo’d a divo’ce, let him pay me ali-money.”

Ransie Bilbro was stricken to dumb perplexity. There had been no previous hint of alimony. Women were always bringing up startling and unlooked-for issues.

Justice Benaja Widdup felt that the point demanded judicial decision. The authorities were also silent on the subject of alimony. But the woman’s feet were bare. The trail to Hogback Mountain was steep and flinty.

“Ariela Bilbro,” he asked, in official tones, “how much did you ‘low would be good and sufficient ali-money in the case befo’ the co’t.”

“I ‘lowed,” she answered, “fur the shoes and all, to say five dollars. That ain’t much fur ali-money, but I reckon that’ll git me to up brother Ed’s.”

“The amount,” said the Justice, “air not onreasonable. Ransie Bilbro, you air ordered by the co’t to pay the plaintiff the sum of five dollars befo’ the decree of divo’ce air issued.”

“I hain’t no mo’ money,” breathed Ransie, heavily. “I done paid you all I had.”

“Otherwise,” said the Justice, looking severely over his spectacles, “you air in contempt of co’t.”

“I reckon if you gimme till to-morrow,” pleaded the husband, “I mout be able to rake or scrape it up somewhars. I never looked for to be a-payin’ no alimoney.”

“The case air adjourned,” said Benaja Widdup, “till to-morrow, when you-all will present yo’selves and obey the order of the co’t. Followin’ of which the decrees of divo’ce will be delivered.” He sat down in the door and began to loosen a shoestring.

“We mout as well go down to Uncle Ziah’s,” decided Ransie, “and spend the night.” He climbed into the cart on one side, and Ariela climbed in on the other. Obeying the flap of his rope, the little red bull slowly came around on a tack, and the cart crawled away in the nimbus arising from its wheels.

Filed in: Classics, Fiction, Short Novel, Short Stories

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