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Martin Eden 132

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

insolent eyes over the others disease-ravaged frame. "Only Im not worthy of it?" "On the contrary," Martin considered, "because the incident is not worthy." He broke into a laugh, hearty and wholesome. "I confess you made a fool of me, Brissenden. That I am hungry and you are aware of it are only ordinary phenomena, and theres no disgrace. You see, I laugh at the conventional little moralities of the herd; then you drift by, say a sharp, true word, and immediately I am the slave of the same little moralities." "You were insulted," Brissenden affirmed. "I certainly was, a moment ago. The prejudice of early youth, you know. I learned such things then, and they cheapen what I have since learned. They are the skeletons in my particular closet." "But youve got the door shut on them now?" "I certainly have." "Sure?" "Sure." "Then lets go and get something to eat." "Ill go you," Martin answered, attempting to pay for the current Scotch and soda with the last change from his two dollars and seeing the waiter bullied by Brissenden into putting that change back on the table. Martin pocketed it with a grimace, and felt for a moment the kindly weight of Brissendens hand upon his shoulder.


Promptly, the next afternoon, Maria was excited by Martins second visitor. But she did not lose her head this time, for she seated Brissenden in her parlors grandeur of respectability. "Hope you dont mind my coming?" Brissenden began. "No, no, not at all," Martin answered, shaking hands and waving him to the solitary chair, himself taking to the bed. "But how did you know where I lived?" "Called up the Morses. Miss Morse answered the phone. And here I am." He tugged at his coat pocket and flung a thin volume on the table. "Theres a book, by a poet. Read it and keep it." And then, in reply to Martins protest: "What have I to do with books? I had another hemorrhage this morning. Got any whiskey? No, of course not. Wait a minute." He was off and away. Martin watched his long figure go down the outside steps, and, on turning to close the gate, noted with a pang the shoulders, which had once been broad, drawn in now over, the collapsed ruin of the chest. Martin got two tumblers, and fell to reading the book of verse, Henry Vaughn Marlows latest collection. "No Scotch," Brissenden announced on his return. "The beggar sells nothing but American whiskey. But heres a quart of it." "Ill send one of the youngsters for lemons, and well make a toddy," Martin offered. "I wonder what a book like that will earn Marlow?" he went on, holding up the volume in question. "Possibly fifty dollars," came the answer. "Though hes lucky if he pulls even on it, or if he can inveigle a publisher to risk bringing it out." "Then one cant make a living out of poetry?" Martins tone and face alike showed his dejection. "Certainly not. What fool expects to? Out of rhyming, yes. Theres Bruce, and Virginia Spring, and Sedgwick. They do very nicely. But poetry--do you know how Vaughn Marlow makes his living?--teaching in a boys cramming-joint down in Pennsylvania, and of all private little hells such a billet is the limit. I wouldnt trade places with him if he had fifty years of life before him. And yet his work stands out from the ruck of the contemporary versifiers as a balas ruby among carrots. And the reviews he gets! Damn them, all of them, the crass manikins!" "Too much is written by the men who cant write about the men who do write," Martin concurred. "Why, I was appalled at the quantities of rubbish written about Stevenson and his work." "Ghouls and harpies!" Brissenden snapped out with clicking teeth. "Yes, I know the spawn--complacently pecking at him for his Father Damien letter, analyzing him, weighing him--" "Measuring him by the yardstick of their own miserable egos," Martin broke in. "Yes, thats it, a good phrase,--mouthing and besliming the True, and Beautiful, and Good, and finally patting him on the back and saying, Good dog, Fido. Faugh! The little chattering daws of men, Richard Realf called them the night he died." "Pecking at star-dust," Martin took up the strain warmly; "at the meteoric flight of the master-men. I once wrote a squib on them--the critics,

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