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Martin Eden 154

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

socialists. He ran over the violent speech the cub reporter had constructed for him, and, though at first he was angered by the fabrication, in the end he tossed the paper aside with a laugh. "Either the man was drunk or criminally malicious," he said that afternoon, from his perch on the bed, when Brissenden had arrived and dropped limply into the one chair. "But what do you care?" Brissenden asked. "Surely you dont desire the approval of the bourgeois swine that read the newspapers?" Martin thought for a while, then said:- "No, I really dont care for their approval, not a whit. On the other hand, its very likely to make my relations with Ruths family a trifle awkward. Her father always contended I was a socialist, and this miserable stuff will clinch his belief. Not that I care for his opinion--but whats the odds? I want to read you what Ive been doing to- day. Its Overdue, of course, and Im just about halfway through." He was reading aloud when Maria thrust open the door and ushered in a young man in a natty suit who glanced briskly about him, noting the oil- burner and the kitchen in the corner before his gaze wandered on to Martin. "Sit down," Brissenden said. Martin made room for the young man on the bed and waited for him to broach his business. "I heard you speak last night, Mr. Eden, and Ive come to interview you," he began. Brissenden burst out in a hearty laugh. "A brother socialist?" the reporter asked, with a quick glance at Brissenden that appraised the color-value of that cadaverous and dying man. "And he wrote that report," Martin said softly. "Why, he is only a boy!" "Why dont you poke him?" Brissenden asked. "Id give a thousand dollars to have my lungs back for five minutes." The cub reporter was a trifle perplexed by this talking over him and around him and at him. But he had been commended for his brilliant description of the socialist meeting and had further been detailed to get a personal interview with Martin Eden, the leader of the organized menace to society. "You do not object to having your picture taken, Mr. Eden?" he said. "Ive a staff photographer outside, you see, and he says it will be better to take you right away before the sun gets lower. Then we can have the interview afterward." "A photographer," Brissenden said meditatively. "Poke him, Martin! Poke him!" "I guess Im getting old," was the answer. "I know I ought, but I really havent the heart. It doesnt seem to matter." "For his mothers sake," Brissenden urged. "Its worth considering," Martin replied; "but it doesnt seem worth while enough to rouse sufficient energy in me. You see, it does take energy to give a fellow a poking. Besides, what does it matter?" "Thats right--thats the way to take it," the cub announced airily, though he had already begun to glance anxiously at the door. "But it wasnt true, not a word of what he wrote," Martin went on, confining his attention to Brissenden. "It was just in a general way a description, you understand," the cub ventured, "and besides, its good advertising. Thats what counts. It was a favor to you." "Its good advertising, Martin, old boy," Brissenden repeated solemnly. "And it was a favor to me--think of that!" was Martins contribution. "Let me see--where were you born, Mr. Eden?" the cub asked, assuming an air of expectant attention. "He doesnt take notes," said Brissenden. "He remembers it all." "That is sufficient for me." The cub was trying not to look worried. "No decent reporter needs to bother with notes." "That was sufficient--for last night." But Brissenden was not a disciple of quietism, and he changed his attitude abruptly. "Martin, if you dont poke him, Ill do it myself, if I fall dead on the floor the next moment." "How will a spanking do?" Martin asked. Brissenden considered judicially, and nodded his head. The next instant Martin was seated on the edge of the bed with the cub face downward across his knees. "Now dont bite," Martin warned, "or else Ill have to punch your face. It would be a pity, for it is such a pretty face." His uplifted hand descended, and thereafter rose and fell in a swift and steady rhythm. The cub struggled and cursed and squirmed, but did not offer to bite. Brissenden looked on gravely,

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