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Martin Eden 138







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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

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of the type-writer, and when Martin let her in, found him on the last page of a manuscript. She had come to make certain whether or not he would be at their table for Thanksgiving dinner; but before she could broach the subject Martin plunged into the one with which he was full. "Here, let me read you this," he cried, separating the carbon copies and running the pages of manuscript into shape. "Its my latest, and different from anything Ive done. It is so altogether different that I am almost afraid of it, and yet Ive a sneaking idea it is good. You be judge. Its an Hawaiian story. Ive called it Wiki-wiki." His face was bright with the creative glow, though she shivered in the cold room and had been struck by the coldness of his hands at greeting. She listened closely while he read, and though he from time to time had seen only disapprobation in her face, at the close he asked:- "Frankly, what do you think of it?" "I--I dont know," she, answered. "Will it--do you think it will sell?" "Im afraid not," was the confession. "Its too strong for the magazines. But its true, on my word its true." "But why do you persist in writing such things when you know they wont sell?" she went on inexorably. "The reason for your writing is to make a living, isnt it?" "Yes, thats right; but the miserable story got away with me. I couldnt help writing it. It demanded to be written." "But that character, that Wiki-Wiki, why do you make him talk so roughly? Surely it will offend your readers, and surely that is why the editors are justified in refusing your work." "Because the real Wiki-Wiki would have talked that way." "But it is not good taste." "It is life," he replied bluntly. "It is real. It is true. And I must write life as I see it." She made no answer, and for an awkward moment they sat silent. It was because he loved her that he did not quite understand her, and she could not understand him because he was so large that he bulked beyond her horizon. "Well, Ive collected from the Transcontinental," he said in an effort to shift the conversation to a more comfortable subject. The picture of the bewhiskered trio, as he had last seen them, mulcted of four dollars and ninety cents and a ferry ticket, made him chuckle. "Then youll come!" she cried joyously. "That was what I came to find out." "Come?" he muttered absently. "Where?" "Why, to dinner to-morrow. You know you said youd recover your suit if you got that money." "I forgot all about it," he said humbly. "You see, this morning the poundman got Marias two cows and the baby calf, and--well, it happened that Maria didnt have any money, and so I had to recover her cows for her. Thats where the Transcontinental fiver went--The Ring of Bells went into the poundmans pocket." "Then you wont come?" He looked down at his clothing. "I cant." Tears of disappointment and reproach glistened in her blue eyes, but she said nothing. "Next Thanksgiving youll have dinner with me in Delmonicos," he said cheerily; "or in London, or Paris, or anywhere you wish. I know it." "I saw in the paper a few days ago," she announced abruptly, "that there had been several local appointments to the Railway Mail. You passed first, didnt you?" He was compelled to admit that the call had come for him, but that he had declined it. "I was so sure--I am so sure--of myself," he concluded. "A year from now Ill be earning more than a dozen men in the Railway Mail. You wait and see." "Oh," was all she said, when he finished. She stood up, pulling at her gloves. "I must go, Martin. Arthur is waiting for me." He took her in his arms and kissed her, but she proved a passive sweetheart. There was no tenseness in her body, her arms did not go around him, and her lips met his without their wonted pressure. She was angry with him, he concluded, as he returned from the gate. But why? It was unfortunate that the poundman had gobbled Marias cows. But it was only a stroke of fate. Nobody could be blamed for it. Nor did it enter

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