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Martin Eden 144







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




him sit all day on a bench and never a bite pass his lips, and in the evening, when I invited him to dinner--restaurant two blocks away--have him say, Too much trouble, old man. Buy me a package of cigarettes instead. He was a Spencerian like you till Kreis turned him to materialistic monism. Ill start him on monism if I can. Nortons another monist--only he affirms naught but spirit. He can give Kreis and Hamilton all they want, too." "Who is Kreis?" Martin asked. "His rooms were going to. One time professor--fired from university--usual story. A mind like a steel trap. Makes his living any old way. I know hes been a street fakir when he was down. Unscrupulous. Rob a corpse of a shroud--anything. Difference between him--and the bourgeoisie is that he robs without illusion. Hell talk Nietzsche, or Schopenhauer, or Kant, or anything, but the only thing in this world, not excepting Mary, that he really cares for, is his monism. Haeckel is his little tin god. The only way to insult him is to take a slap at Haeckel." "Heres the hang-out." Brissenden rested his demijohn at the upstairs entrance, preliminary to the climb. It was the usual two-story corner building, with a saloon and grocery underneath. "The gang lives here--got the whole upstairs to themselves. But Kreis is the only one who has two rooms. Come on." No lights burned in the upper hall, but Brissenden threaded the utter blackness like a familiar ghost. He stopped to speak to Martin. "Theres one fellow--Stevens--a theosophist. Makes a pretty tangle when he gets going. Just now hes dish-washer in a restaurant. Likes a good cigar. Ive seen him eat in a ten-cent hash-house and pay fifty cents for the cigar he smoked afterward. Ive got a couple in my pocket for him, if he shows up." "And theres another fellow--Parry--an Australian, a statistician and a sporting encyclopaedia. Ask him the grain output of Paraguay for 1903, or the English importation of sheetings into China for 1890, or at what weight Jimmy Britt fought Battling Nelson, or who was welter-weight champion of the United States in 68, and youll get the correct answer with the automatic celerity of a slot-machine. And theres Andy, a stone- mason, has ideas on everything, a good chess-player; and another fellow, Harry, a baker, red hot socialist and strong union man. By the way, you remember Cooks and Waiters strike--Hamilton was the chap who organized that union and precipitated the strike--planned it all out in advance, right here in Kreiss rooms. Did it just for the fun of it, but was too lazy to stay by the union. Yet he could have risen high if he wanted to. Theres no end to the possibilities in that man--if he werent so insuperably lazy." Brissenden advanced through the darkness till a thread of light marked the threshold of a door. A knock and an answer opened it, and Martin found himself shaking hands with Kreis, a handsome brunette man, with dazzling white teeth, a drooping black mustache, and large, flashing black eyes. Mary, a matronly young blonde, was washing dishes in the little back room that served for kitchen and dining room. The front room served as bedchamber and living room. Overhead was the weeks washing, hanging in festoons so low that Martin did not see at first the two men talking in a corner. They hailed Brissenden and his demijohns with acclamation, and, on being introduced, Martin learned they were Andy and Parry. He joined them and listened attentively to the description of a prize-fight Parry had seen the night before; while Brissenden, in his glory, plunged into the manufacture of a toddy and the serving of wine and whiskey-and-sodas. At his command, "Bring in the clan," Andy departed to go the round of the rooms for the lodgers. "Were lucky that most of them are here," Brissenden whispered to Martin. "Theres Norton and Hamilton; come on and meet them. Stevens isnt around, I hear. Im going to get them started on monism if I can. Wait till they get a few jolts in them and theyll warm up." At first the conversation was desultory. Nevertheless Martin could not fail to appreciate the keen play of their minds. They were men with opinions, though the opinions

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