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Martin Eden 129

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

He had never submitted them anywhere. They were as good as anything he had done in that line. If only he had stamps for them! Then the certitude of his ultimate success rose up in him, an able ally of hunger, and with a quick movement he slipped the coin into his pocket. "Ill pay you back, Gertrude, a hundred times over," he gulped out, his throat painfully contracted and in his eyes a swift hint of moisture. "Mark my words!" he cried with abrupt positiveness. "Before the year is out Ill put an even hundred of those little yellow-boys into your hand. I dont ask you to believe me. All you have to do is wait and see." Nor did she believe. Her incredulity made her uncomfortable, and failing of other expedient, she said:- "I know youre hungry, Mart. Its sticking out all over you. Come in to meals any time. Ill send one of the children to tell you when Mr. Higginbotham aint to be there. An Mart--" He waited, though he knew in his secret heart what she was about to say, so visible was her thought process to him. "Dont you think its about time you got a job?" "You dont think Ill win out?" he asked. She shook her head. "Nobody has faith in me, Gertrude, except myself." His voice was passionately rebellious. "Ive done good work already, plenty of it, and sooner or later it will sell." "How do you know it is good?" "Because--" He faltered as the whole vast field of literature and the history of literature stirred in his brain and pointed the futility of his attempting to convey to her the reasons for his faith. "Well, because its better than ninety-nine per cent of what is published in the magazines." "I wisht youd listen to reason," she answered feebly, but with unwavering belief in the correctness of her diagnosis of what was ailing him. "I wisht youd listen to reason," she repeated, "an come to dinner to-morrow." After Martin had helped her on the car, he hurried to the post-office and invested three of the five dollars in stamps; and when, later in the day, on the way to the Morse home, he stopped in at the post-office to weigh a large number of long, bulky envelopes, he affixed to them all the stamps save three of the two-cent denomination. It proved a momentous night for Martin, for after dinner he met Russ Brissenden. How he chanced to come there, whose friend he was or what acquaintance brought him, Martin did not know. Nor had he the curiosity to inquire about him of Ruth. In short, Brissenden struck Martin as anaemic and feather-brained, and was promptly dismissed from his mind. An hour later he decided that Brissenden was a boor as well, what of the way he prowled about from one room to another, staring at the pictures or poking his nose into books and magazines he picked up from the table or drew from the shelves. Though a stranger in the house he finally isolated himself in the midst of the company, huddling into a capacious Morris chair and reading steadily from a thin volume he had drawn from his pocket. As he read, he abstractedly ran his fingers, with a caressing movement, through his hair. Martin noticed him no more that evening, except once when he observed him chaffing with great apparent success with several of the young women. It chanced that when Martin was leaving, he overtook Brissenden already half down the walk to the street. "Hello, is that you?" Martin said. The other replied with an ungracious grunt, but swung alongside. Martin made no further attempt at conversation, and for several blocks unbroken silence lay upon them. "Pompous old ass!" The suddenness and the virulence of the exclamation startled Martin. He felt amused, and at the same time was aware of a growing dislike for the other. "What do you go to such a place for?" was abruptly flung at him after another block of silence. "Why do you?" Martin countered. "Bless me, I dont know," came back. "At least this is my first indiscretion. There are twenty-four hours in each day, and I must spend them somehow. Come and have a drink." "All right," Martin answered. The next moment he was nonplussed by the readiness of his acceptance. At home was several hours hack-work waiting for him

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