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Martin Eden 177

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

and in a private talk with Hermann told him to keep his eyes open for an automobile agency and garage, for there was no reason that he should not be able to run both establishments successfully. With tears in her eyes and her arms around his neck, Marian, at parting, told Martin how much she loved him and always had loved him. It was true, there was a perceptible halt midway in her assertion, which she glossed over with more tears and kisses and incoherent stammerings, and which Martin inferred to be her appeal for forgiveness for the time she had lacked faith in him and insisted on his getting a job. "He cant never keep his money, thats sure," Hermann von Schmidt confided to his wife. "He got mad when I spoke of interest, an he said damn the principal and if I mentioned it again, hed punch my Dutch head off. Thats what he said--my Dutch head. But hes all right, even if he aint no business man. Hes given me my chance, an hes all right." Invitations to dinner poured in on Martin; and the more they poured, the more he puzzled. He sat, the guest of honor, at an Arden Club banquet, with men of note whom he had heard about and read about all his life; and they told him how, when they had read "The Ring of Bells" in the Transcontinental, and "The Peri and the Pearl" in The Hornet, they had immediately picked him for a winner. My God! and I was hungry and in rags, he thought to himself. Why didnt you give me a dinner then? Then was the time. It was work performed. If you are feeding me now for work performed, why did you not feed me then when I needed it? Not one word in "The Ring of Bells," nor in "The Peri and the Pearl" has been changed. No; youre not feeding me now for work performed. You are feeding me because everybody else is feeding me and because it is an honor to feed me. You are feeding me now because you are herd animals; because you are part of the mob; because the one blind, automatic thought in the mob-mind just now is to feed me. And where does Martin Eden and the work Martin Eden performed come in in all this? he asked himself plaintively, then arose to respond cleverly and wittily to a clever and witty toast. So it went. Wherever he happened to be--at the Press Club, at the Redwood Club, at pink teas and literary gatherings--always were remembered "The Ring of Bells" and "The Peri and the Pearl" when they were first published. And always was Martins maddening and unuttered demand: Why didnt you feed me then? It was work performed. "The Ring of Bells" and "The Peri and the Pearl" are not changed one iota. They were just as artistic, just as worth while, then as now. But you are not feeding me for their sake, nor for the sake of anything else I have written. Youre feeding me because it is the style of feeding just now, because the whole mob is crazy with the idea of feeding Martin Eden. And often, at such times, he would abruptly see slouch in among the company a young hoodlum in square-cut coat and under a stiff-rim Stetson hat. It happened to him at the Gallina Society in Oakland one afternoon. As he rose from his chair and stepped forward across the platform, he saw stalk through the wide door at the rear of the great room the young hoodlum with the square-cut coat and stiff-rim hat. Five hundred fashionably gowned women turned their heads, so intent and steadfast was Martins gaze, to see what he was seeing. But they saw only the empty centre aisle. He saw the young tough lurching down that aisle and wondered if he would remove the stiff-rim which never yet had he seen him without. Straight down the aisle he came, and up the platform. Martin could have wept over that youthful shade of himself, when he thought of all that lay before him. Across the platform he swaggered, right up to Martin, and into the foreground of Martins consciousness disappeared. The five hundred women applauded softly with gloved hands, seeking to encourage the

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