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Martin Eden 15

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

told you he would." She nodded her head resignedly. "His eyes was pretty shiny," she confessed; "and he didnt have no collar, though he went away with one. But mebbe he didnt have moren a couple of glasses." "He couldnt stand up straight," asserted her husband. "I watched him. He couldnt walk across the floor without stumblin. You heard m yourself almost fall down in the hall." "I think it was over Alices cart," she said. "He couldnt see it in the dark." Mr. Higginbothams voice and wrath began to rise. All day he effaced himself in the store, reserving for the evening, with his family, the privilege of being himself. "I tell you that precious brother of yours was drunk." His voice was cold, sharp, and final, his lips stamping the enunciation of each word like the die of a machine. His wife sighed and remained silent. She was a large, stout woman, always dressed slatternly and always tired from the burdens of her flesh, her work, and her husband. "Hes got it in him, I tell you, from his father," Mr. Higginbotham went on accusingly. "An hell croak in the gutter the same way. You know that." She nodded, sighed, and went on stitching. They were agreed that Martin had come home drunk. They did not have it in their souls to know beauty, or they would have known that those shining eyes and that glowing face betokened youths first vision of love. "Settin a fine example to the children," Mr. Higginbotham snorted, suddenly, in the silence for which his wife was responsible and which he resented. Sometimes he almost wished she would oppose him more. "If he does it again, hes got to get out. Understand! I wont put up with his shinanigan--debotchin innocent children with his boozing." Mr. Higginbotham liked the word, which was a new one in his vocabulary, recently gleaned from a newspaper column. "Thats what it is, debotchin--there aint no other name for it." Still his wife sighed, shook her head sorrowfully, and stitched on. Mr. Higginbotham resumed the newspaper. "Has he paid last weeks board?" he shot across the top of the newspaper. She nodded, then added, "He still has some money." "When is he goin to sea again?" "When his pay-days spent, I guess," she answered. "He was over to San Francisco yesterday looking for a ship. But hes got money, yet, an hes particular about the kind of ship he signs for." "Its not for a deck-swab like him to put on airs," Mr. Higginbotham snorted. "Particular! Him!" "He said something about a schooner thats gettin ready to go off to some outlandish place to look for buried treasure, that hed sail on her if his money held out." "If he only wanted to steady down, Id give him a job drivin the wagon," her husband said, but with no trace of benevolence in his voice. "Toms quit." His wife looked alarm and interrogation. "Quit to-night. Is goin to work for Carruthers. They paid m moren I could afford." "I told you youd lose m," she cried out. "He was worth moren you was giving him." "Now look here, old woman," Higginbotham bullied, "for the thousandth time Ive told you to keep your nose out of the business. I wont tell you again." "I dont care," she sniffled. "Tom was a good boy." Her husband glared at her. This was unqualified defiance. "If that brother of yours was worth his salt, he could take the wagon," he snorted. "He pays his board, just the same," was the retort. "An hes my brother, an so long as he dont owe you money youve got no right to be jumping on him all the time. Ive got some feelings, if I have been married to you for seven years." "Did you tell m youd charge him for gas if he goes on readin in bed?" he demanded. Mrs. Higginbotham made no reply. Her revolt faded away, her spirit wilting down into her tired flesh. Her husband was triumphant. He had her. His eyes snapped vindictively, while his ears joyed in the sniffles she emitted. He extracted great happiness from squelching her, and she squelched easily these days, though it had been different in the first years of their married life, before the brood of children and his incessant nagging had sapped her energy. "Well, you tell m to-morrow, thats all,"

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