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Martin Eden 114

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

honest--calls him the Rock, Peter, and says that upon him any banking institution can well be built." "I dont doubt it--from the little I saw of him and the less I heard from him; but I dont think so much of banks as I did. You dont mind my speaking my mind this way, dear?" "No, no; it is most interesting." "Yes," Martin went on heartily, "Im no more than a barbarian getting my first impressions of civilization. Such impressions must be entertainingly novel to the civilized person." "What did you think of my cousins?" Ruth queried. "I liked them better than the other women. Theres plenty of fun in them along with paucity of pretence." "Then you did like the other women?" He shook his head. "That social-settlement woman is no more than a sociological poll-parrot. I swear, if you winnowed her out between the stars, like Tomlinson, there would be found in her not one original thought. As for the portrait-painter, she was a positive bore. Shed make a good wife for the cashier. And the musician woman! I dont care how nimble her fingers are, how perfect her technique, how wonderful her expression--the fact is, she knows nothing about music." "She plays beautifully," Ruth protested. "Yes, shes undoubtedly gymnastic in the externals of music, but the intrinsic spirit of music is unguessed by her. I asked her what music meant to her--you know Im always curious to know that particular thing; and she did not know what it meant to her, except that she adored it, that it was the greatest of the arts, and that it meant more than life to her." "You were making them talk shop," Ruth charged him. "I confess it. And if they were failures on shop, imagine my sufferings if they had discoursed on other subjects. Why, I used to think that up here, where all the advantages of culture were enjoyed--" He paused for a moment, and watched the youthful shade of himself, in stiff-rim and square-cut, enter the door and swagger across the room. "As I was saying, up here I thought all men and women were brilliant and radiant. But now, from what little Ive seen of them, they strike me as a pack of ninnies, most of them, and ninety percent of the remainder as bores. Now theres Professor Caldwell--hes different. Hes a man, every inch of him and every atom of his gray matter." Ruths face brightened. "Tell me about him," she urged. "Not what is large and brilliant--I know those qualities; but whatever you feel is adverse. I am most curious to know." "Perhaps Ill get myself in a pickle." Martin debated humorously for a moment. "Suppose you tell me first. Or maybe you find in him nothing less than the best." "I attended two lecture courses under him, and I have known him for two years; that is why I am anxious for your first impression." "Bad impression, you mean? Well, here goes. He is all the fine things you think about him, I guess. At least, he is the finest specimen of intellectual man I have met; but he is a man with a secret shame." "Oh, no, no!" he hastened to cry. "Nothing paltry nor vulgar. What I mean is that he strikes me as a man who has gone to the bottom of things, and is so afraid of what he saw that he makes believe to himself that he never saw it. Perhaps thats not the clearest way to express it. Heres another way. A man who has found the path to the hidden temple but has not followed it; who has, perhaps, caught glimpses of the temple and striven afterward to convince himself that it was only a mirage of foliage. Yet another way. A man who could have done things but who placed no value on the doing, and who, all the time, in his innermost heart, is regretting that he has not done them; who has secretly laughed at the rewards for doing, and yet, still more secretly, has yearned for the rewards and for the joy of doing." "I dont read him that way," she said. "And for that matter, I dont see just what you mean." "It is only a vague feeling on my part," Martin temporized. "I have no reason for it. It is only a feeling, and

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