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Martin Eden 105







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




of it, however, any more than she was aware that her desire that Martin take a position was the instinctive and preparative impulse of motherhood. She would have blushed had she been told as much in plain, set terms, and next, she might have grown indignant and asserted that her sole interest lay in the man she loved and her desire for him to make the best of himself. So, while Martin poured out his heart to her, elated with the first success his chosen work in the world had received, she paid heed to his bare words only, gazing now and again about the room, shocked by what she saw. For the first time Ruth gazed upon the sordid face of poverty. Starving lovers had always seemed romantic to her,--but she had had no idea how starving lovers lived. She had never dreamed it could be like this. Ever her gaze shifted from the room to him and back again. The steamy smell of dirty clothes, which had entered with her from the kitchen, was sickening. Martin must be soaked with it, Ruth concluded, if that awful woman washed frequently. Such was the contagiousness of degradation. When she looked at Martin, she seemed to see the smirch left upon him by his surroundings. She had never seen him unshaven, and the three days growth of beard on his face was repulsive to her. Not alone did it give him the same dark and murky aspect of the Silva house, inside and out, but it seemed to emphasize that animal-like strength of his which she detested. And here he was, being confirmed in his madness by the two acceptances he took such pride in telling her about. A little longer and he would have surrendered and gone to work. Now he would continue on in this horrible house, writing and starving for a few more months. "What is that smell?" she asked suddenly. "Some of Marias washing smells, I imagine," was the answer. "I am growing quite accustomed to them." "No, no; not that. It is something else. A stale, sickish smell." Martin sampled the air before replying. "I cant smell anything else, except stale tobacco smoke," he announced. "Thats it. It is terrible. Why do you smoke so much, Martin?" "I dont know, except that I smoke more than usual when I am lonely. And then, too, its such a long-standing habit. I learned when I was only a youngster." "It is not a nice habit, you know," she reproved. "It smells to heaven." "Thats the fault of the tobacco. I can afford only the cheapest. But wait until I get that forty-dollar check. Ill use a brand that is not offensive even to the angels. But that wasnt so bad, was it, two acceptances in three days? That forty-five dollars will pay about all my debts." "For two years work?" she queried. "No, for less than a weeks work. Please pass me that book over on the far corner of the table, the account book with the gray cover." He opened it and began turning over the pages rapidly. "Yes, I was right. Four days for The Ring of Bells, two days for The Whirlpool. Thats forty-five dollars for a weeks work, one hundred and eighty dollars a month. That beats any salary I can command. And, besides, Im just beginning. A thousand dollars a month is not too much to buy for you all I want you to have. A salary of five hundred a month would be too small. That forty-five dollars is just a starter. Wait till I get my stride. Then watch my smoke." Ruth misunderstood his slang, and reverted to cigarettes. "You smoke more than enough as it is, and the brand of tobacco will make no difference. It is the smoking itself that is not nice, no matter what the brand may be. You are a chimney, a living volcano, a perambulating smoke-stack, and you are a perfect disgrace, Martin dear, you know you are." She leaned toward him, entreaty in her eyes, and as he looked at her delicate face and into her pure, limpid eyes, as of old he was struck with his own unworthiness. "I wish you wouldnt smoke any more," she whispered. "Please, for--my sake." "All right, I wont," he cried. "Ill

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