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Martin Eden 167







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




the conversation off into other channels. They had lunch in the restaurant, where he ordered wine and expensive delicacies and afterward he danced with her and with no one but her, till she was tired. He was a good dancer, and she whirled around and around with him in a heaven of delight, her head against his shoulder, wishing that it could last forever. Later in the afternoon they strayed off among the trees, where, in the good old fashion, she sat down while he sprawled on his back, his head in her lap. He lay and dozed, while she fondled his hair, looked down on his closed eyes, and loved him without reserve. Looking up suddenly, he read the tender advertisement in her face. Her eyes fluttered down, then they opened and looked into his with soft defiance. "Ive kept straight all these years," she said, her voice so low that it was almost a whisper. In his heart Martin knew that it was the miraculous truth. And at his heart pleaded a great temptation. It was in his power to make her happy. Denied happiness himself, why should he deny happiness to her? He could marry her and take her down with him to dwell in the grass-walled castle in the Marquesas. The desire to do it was strong, but stronger still was the imperative command of his nature not to do it. In spite of himself he was still faithful to Love. The old days of license and easy living were gone. He could not bring them back, nor could he go back to them. He was changed--how changed he had not realized until now. "I am not a marrying man, Lizzie," he said lightly. The hand caressing his hair paused perceptibly, then went on with the same gentle stroke. He noticed her face harden, but it was with the hardness of resolution, for still the soft color was in her cheeks and she was all glowing and melting. "I did not mean that--" she began, then faltered. "Or anyway I dont care." "I dont care," she repeated. "Im proud to be your friend. Id do anything for you. Im made that way, I guess." Martin sat up. He took her hand in his. He did it deliberately, with warmth but without passion; and such warmth chilled her. "Dont lets talk about it," she said. "You are a great and noble woman," he said. "And it is I who should be proud to know you. And I am, I am. You are a ray of light to me in a very dark world, and Ive got to be straight with you, just as straight as you have been." "I dont care whether youre straight with me or not. You could do anything with me. You could throw me in the dirt an walk on me. An youre the only man in the world that can," she added with a defiant flash. "I aint taken care of myself ever since I was a kid for nothin." "And its just because of that that Im not going to," he said gently. "You are so big and generous that you challenge me to equal generousness. Im not marrying, and Im not--well, loving without marrying, though Ive done my share of that in the past. Im sorry I came here to-day and met you. But it cant be helped now, and I never expected it would turn out this way." "But look here, Lizzie. I cant begin to tell you how much I like you. I do more than like you. I admire and respect you. You are magnificent, and you are magnificently good. But whats the use of words? Yet theres something Id like to do. Youve had a hard life; let me make it easy for you." (A joyous light welled into her eyes, then faded out again.) "Im pretty sure of getting hold of some money soon--lots of it." In that moment he abandoned the idea of the valley and the bay, the grass- walled castle and the trim, white schooner. After all, what did it matter? He could go away, as he had done so often, before the mast, on any ship bound anywhere. "Id like to turn it over to you. There must be something you want--to go

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