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The Moment Of Victory
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, wholesale dry-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.