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Martin Eden 131







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




correct conclusions. You certainly short-cut with a vengeance. You feel your way with the speed of light, by some hyperrational process, to truth." "Yes, that was what used to bother Father Joseph, and Brother Dutton," Brissenden replied. "Oh, no," he added; "I am not anything. It was a lucky trick of fate that sent me to a Catholic college for my education. Where did you pick up what you know?" And while Martin told him, he was busy studying Brissenden, ranging from a long, lean, aristocratic face and drooping shoulders to the overcoat on a neighboring chair, its pockets sagged and bulged by the freightage of many books. Brissendens face and long, slender hands were browned by the sun--excessively browned, Martin thought. This sunburn bothered Martin. It was patent that Brissenden was no outdoor man. Then how had he been ravaged by the sun? Something morbid and significant attached to that sunburn, was Martins thought as he returned to a study of the face, narrow, with high cheek-bones and cavernous hollows, and graced with as delicate and fine an aquiline nose as Martin had ever seen. There was nothing remarkable about the size of the eyes. They were neither large nor small, while their color was a nondescript brown; but in them smouldered a fire, or, rather, lurked an expression dual and strangely contradictory. Defiant, indomitable, even harsh to excess, they at the same time aroused pity. Martin found himself pitying him he knew not why, though he was soon to learn. "Oh, Im a lunger," Brissenden announced, offhand, a little later, having already stated that he came from Arizona. "Ive been down there a couple of years living on the climate." "Arent you afraid to venture it up in this climate?" "Afraid?" There was no special emphasis of his repetition of Martins word. But Martin saw in that ascetic face the advertisement that there was nothing of which it was afraid. The eyes had narrowed till they were eagle-like, and Martin almost caught his breath as he noted the eagle beak with its dilated nostrils, defiant, assertive, aggressive. Magnificent, was what he commented to himself, his blood thrilling at the sight. Aloud, he quoted:- "Under the bludgeoning of Chance My head is bloody but unbowed." "You like Henley," Brissenden said, his expression changing swiftly to large graciousness and tenderness. "Of course, I couldnt have expected anything else of you. Ah, Henley! A brave soul. He stands out among contemporary rhymesters--magazine rhymesters--as a gladiator stands out in the midst of a band of eunuchs." "You dont like the magazines," Martin softly impeached. "Do you?" was snarled back at him so savagely as to startle him. "I--I write, or, rather, try to write, for the magazines," Martin faltered. "Thats better," was the mollified rejoinder. "You try to write, but you dont succeed. I respect and admire your failure. I know what you write. I can see it with half an eye, and theres one ingredient in it that shuts it out of the magazines. Its guts, and magazines have no use for that particular commodity. What they want is wish-wash and slush, and God knows they get it, but not from you." "Im not above hack-work," Martin contended. "On the contrary--" Brissenden paused and ran an insolent eye over Martins objective poverty, passing from the well-worn tie and the saw- edged collar to the shiny sleeves of the coat and on to the slight fray of one cuff, winding up and dwelling upon Martins sunken cheeks. "On the contrary, hack-work is above you, so far above you that you can never hope to rise to it. Why, man, I could insult you by asking you to have something to eat." Martin felt the heat in his face of the involuntary blood, and Brissenden laughed triumphantly. "A full man is not insulted by such an invitation," he concluded. "You are a devil," Martin cried irritably. "Anyway, I didnt ask you." "You didnt dare." "Oh, I dont know about that. I invite you now." Brissenden half rose from his chair as he spoke, as if with the intention of departing to the restaurant forthwith. Martins fists were tight-clenched, and his blood was drumming in his temples. "Bosco! He eats em alive! Eats em alive!" Brissenden exclaimed, imitating the spieler of a locally famous snake-eater. "I could certainly eat you alive," Martin said, in turn running

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