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Martin Eden 151







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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

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is correct in their parrot- learned knowledge would be absent." "And yet a man like Principal Fairbanks of Oxford--a man who sits in an even higher place than you, Judge Blount--has said that Spencer will be dismissed by posterity as a poet and dreamer rather than a thinker. Yappers and blatherskites, the whole brood of them! "First Principles" is not wholly destitute of a certain literary power, said one of them. And others of them have said that he was an industrious plodder rather than an original thinker. Yappers and blatherskites! Yappers and blatherskites!" Martin ceased abruptly, in a dead silence. Everybody in Ruths family looked up to Judge Blount as a man of power and achievement, and they were horrified at Martins outbreak. The remainder of the dinner passed like a funeral, the judge and Mr. Morse confining their talk to each other, and the rest of the conversation being extremely desultory. Then afterward, when Ruth and Martin were alone, there was a scene. "You are unbearable," she wept. But his anger still smouldered, and he kept muttering, "The beasts! The beasts!" When she averred he had insulted the judge, he retorted:- "By telling the truth about him?" "I dont care whether it was true or not," she insisted. "There are certain bounds of decency, and you had no license to insult anybody." "Then where did Judge Blount get the license to assault truth?" Martin demanded. "Surely to assault truth is a more serious misdemeanor than to insult a pygmy personality such as the judges. He did worse than that. He blackened the name of a great, noble man who is dead. Oh, the beasts! The beasts!" His complex anger flamed afresh, and Ruth was in terror of him. Never had she seen him so angry, and it was all mystified and unreasonable to her comprehension. And yet, through her very terror ran the fibres of fascination that had drawn and that still drew her to him--that had compelled her to lean towards him, and, in that mad, culminating moment, lay her hands upon his neck. She was hurt and outraged by what had taken place, and yet she lay in his arms and quivered while he went on muttering, "The beasts! The beasts!" And she still lay there when he said: "Ill not bother your table again, dear. They do not like me, and it is wrong of me to thrust my objectionable presence upon them. Besides, they are just as objectionable to me. Faugh! They are sickening. And to think of it, I dreamed in my innocence that the persons who sat in the high places, who lived in fine houses and had educations and bank accounts, were worth while!"

CHAPTER XXXVIII

"Come on, lets go down to the local." So spoke Brissenden, faint from a hemorrhage of half an hour before--the second hemorrhage in three days. The perennial whiskey glass was in his hands, and he drained it with shaking fingers. "What do I want with socialism?" Martin demanded. "Outsiders are allowed five-minute speeches," the sick man urged. "Get up and spout. Tell them why you dont want socialism. Tell them what you think about them and their ghetto ethics. Slam Nietzsche into them and get walloped for your pains. Make a scrap of it. It will do them good. Discussion is what they want, and what you want, too. You see, Id like to see you a socialist before Im gone. It will give you a sanction for your existence. It is the one thing that will save you in the time of disappointment that is coming to you." "I never can puzzle out why you, of all men, are a socialist," Martin pondered. "You detest the crowd so. Surely there is nothing in the canaille to recommend it to your aesthetic soul." He pointed an accusing finger at the whiskey glass which the other was refilling. "Socialism doesnt seem to save you." "Im very sick," was the answer. "With you it is different. You have health and much to live for, and you must be handcuffed to life somehow. As for me, you wonder why I am a socialist. Ill tell you. It is because Socialism is inevitable; because the present rotten and irrational system cannot endure; because the day is past for your man

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