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Martin Eden 128







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




love, not fear of their enmity. All things may go astray in this world, but not love. Love cannot go wrong unless it be a weakling that faints and stumbles by the way."

CHAPTER XXXI

Martin had encountered his sister Gertrude by chance on Broadway--as it proved, a most propitious yet disconcerting chance. Waiting on the corner for a car, she had seen him first, and noted the eager, hungry lines of his face and the desperate, worried look of his eyes. In truth, he was desperate and worried. He had just come from a fruitless interview with the pawnbroker, from whom he had tried to wring an additional loan on his wheel. The muddy fall weather having come on, Martin had pledged his wheel some time since and retained his black suit. "Theres the black suit," the pawnbroker, who knew his every asset, had answered. "You neednt tell me youve gone and pledged it with that Jew, Lipka. Because if you have--" The man had looked the threat, and Martin hastened to cry:- "No, no; Ive got it. But I want to wear it on a matter of business." "All right," the mollified usurer had replied. "And I want it on a matter of business before I can let you have any more money. You dont think Im in it for my health?" "But its a forty-dollar wheel, in good condition," Martin had argued. "And youve only let me have seven dollars on it. No, not even seven. Six and a quarter; you took the interest in advance." "If you want some more, bring the suit," had been the reply that sent Martin out of the stuffy little den, so desperate at heart as to reflect it in his face and touch his sister to pity. Scarcely had they met when the Telegraph Avenue car came along and stopped to take on a crowd of afternoon shoppers. Mrs. Higginbotham divined from the grip on her arm as he helped her on, that he was not going to follow her. She turned on the step and looked down upon him. His haggard face smote her to the heart again. "Aint you comin?" she asked The next moment she had descended to his side. "Im walking--exercise, you know," he explained. "Then Ill go along for a few blocks," she announced. "Mebbe itll do me good. I aint ben feelin any too spry these last few days." Martin glanced at her and verified her statement in her general slovenly appearance, in the unhealthy fat, in the drooping shoulders, the tired face with the sagging lines, and in the heavy fall of her feet, without elasticity--a very caricature of the walk that belongs to a free and happy body. "Youd better stop here," he said, though she had already come to a halt at the first corner, "and take the next car." "My goodness!--if I aint all tired aready!" she panted. "But Im just as able to walk as you in them soles. Theyre that thin theyll bust long before you git out to North Oakland." "Ive a better pair at home," was the answer. "Come out to dinner to-morrow," she invited irrelevantly. "Mr. Higginbotham wont be there. Hes goin to San Leandro on business." Martin shook his head, but he had failed to keep back the wolfish, hungry look that leapt into his eyes at the suggestion of dinner. "You havent a penny, Mart, and thats why youre walkin. Exercise!" She tried to sniff contemptuously, but succeeded in producing only a sniffle. "Here, lemme see." And, fumbling in her satchel, she pressed a five-dollar piece into his hand. "I guess I forgot your last birthday, Mart," she mumbled lamely. Martins hand instinctively closed on the piece of gold. In the same instant he knew he ought not to accept, and found himself struggling in the throes of indecision. That bit of gold meant food, life, and light in his body and brain, power to go on writing, and--who was to say?--maybe to write something that would bring in many pieces of gold. Clear on his vision burned the manuscripts of two essays he had just completed. He saw them under the table on top of the heap of returned manuscripts for which he had no stamps, and he saw their titles, just as he had typed them--"The High Priests of Mystery," and "The Cradle of Beauty."

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