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Martin Eden 155







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




though once he grew excited and gripped the whiskey bottle, pleading, "Here, just let me swat him once." "Sorry my hand played out," Martin said, when at last he desisted. "It is quite numb." He uprighted the cub and perched him on the bed. "Ill have you arrested for this," he snarled, tears of boyish indignation running down his flushed cheeks. "Ill make you sweat for this. Youll see." "The pretty thing," Martin remarked. "He doesnt realize that he has entered upon the downward path. It is not honest, it is not square, it is not manly, to tell lies about ones fellow-creatures the way he has done, and he doesnt know it." "He has to come to us to be told," Brissenden filled in a pause. "Yes, to me whom he has maligned and injured. My grocery will undoubtedly refuse me credit now. The worst of it is that the poor boy will keep on this way until he deteriorates into a first-class newspaper man and also a first-class scoundrel." "But there is yet time," quoth Brissenden. "Who knows but what you may prove the humble instrument to save him. Why didnt you let me swat him just once? Id like to have had a hand in it." "Ill have you arrested, the pair of you, you b-b-big brutes," sobbed the erring soul. "No, his mouth is too pretty and too weak." Martin shook his head lugubriously. "Im afraid Ive numbed my hand in vain. The young man cannot reform. He will become eventually a very great and successful newspaper man. He has no conscience. That alone will make him great." With that the cub passed out the door in trepidation to the last for fear that Brissenden would hit him in the back with the bottle he still clutched. In the next mornings paper Martin learned a great deal more about himself that was new to him. "We are the sworn enemies of society," he found himself quoted as saying in a column interview. "No, we are not anarchists but socialists." When the reporter pointed out to him that there seemed little difference between the two schools, Martin had shrugged his shoulders in silent affirmation. His face was described as bilaterally asymmetrical, and various other signs of degeneration were described. Especially notable were his thuglike hands and the fiery gleams in his blood-shot eyes. He learned, also, that he spoke nightly to the workmen in the City Hall Park, and that among the anarchists and agitators that there inflamed the minds of the people he drew the largest audiences and made the most revolutionary speeches. The cub painted a high-light picture of his poor little room, its oil-stove and the one chair, and of the deaths-head tramp who kept him company and who looked as if he had just emerged from twenty years of solitary confinement in some fortress dungeon. The cub had been industrious. He had scurried around and nosed out Martins family history, and procured a photograph of Higginbothams Cash Store with Bernard Higginbotham himself standing out in front. That gentleman was depicted as an intelligent, dignified businessman who had no patience with his brother-in-laws socialistic views, and no patience with the brother-in-law, either, whom he was quoted as characterizing as a lazy good-for-nothing who wouldnt take a job when it was offered to him and who would go to jail yet. Hermann Von Schmidt, Marians husband, had likewise been interviewed. He had called Martin the black sheep of the family and repudiated him. "He tried to sponge off of me, but I put a stop to that good and quick," Von Schmidt had said to the reporter. "He knows better than to come bumming around here. A man who wont work is no good, take that from me." This time Martin was genuinely angry. Brissenden looked upon the affair as a good joke, but he could not console Martin, who knew that it would be no easy task to explain to Ruth. As for her father, he knew that he must be overjoyed with what had happened and that he would make the most of it to break off the engagement. How much he would make of it he was soon to realize. The afternoon mail brought a letter from Ruth. Martin opened it with a premonition of disaster, and read it standing at the open door

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