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Martin Eden 178







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Martin Eden

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bashful great man who was their guest. And Martin shook the vision from his brain, smiled, and began to speak. The Superintendent of Schools, good old man, stopped Martin on the street and remembered him, recalling seances in his office when Martin was expelled from school for fighting. "I read your Ring of Bells in one of the magazines quite a time ago," he said. "It was as good as Poe. Splendid, I said at the time, splendid!" Yes, and twice in the months that followed you passed me on the street and did not know me, Martin almost said aloud. Each time I was hungry and heading for the pawnbroker. Yet it was work performed. You did not know me then. Why do you know me now? "I was remarking to my wife only the other day," the other was saying, "wouldnt it be a good idea to have you out to dinner some time? And she quite agreed with me. Yes, she quite agreed with me." "Dinner?" Martin said so sharply that it was almost a snarl. "Why, yes, yes, dinner, you know--just pot luck with us, with your old superintendent, you rascal," he uttered nervously, poking Martin in an attempt at jocular fellowship. Martin went down the street in a daze. He stopped at the corner and looked about him vacantly. "Well, Ill be damned!" he murmured at last. "The old fellow was afraid of me."

CHAPTER XLV

Kreis came to Martin one day--Kreis, of the "real dirt"; and Martin turned to him with relief, to receive the glowing details of a scheme sufficiently wild-catty to interest him as a fictionist rather than an investor. Kreis paused long enough in the midst of his exposition to tell him that in most of his "Shame of the Sun" he had been a chump. "But I didnt come here to spout philosophy," Kreis went on. "What I want to know is whether or not you will put a thousand dollars in on this deal?" "No, Im not chump enough for that, at any rate," Martin answered. "But Ill tell you what I will do. You gave me the greatest night of my life. You gave me what money cannot buy. Now Ive got money, and it means nothing to me. Id like to turn over to you a thousand dollars of what I dont value for what you gave me that night and which was beyond price. You need the money. Ive got more than I need. You want it. You came for it. Theres no use scheming it out of me. Take it." Kreis betrayed no surprise. He folded the check away in his pocket. "At that rate Id like the contract of providing you with many such nights," he said. "Too late." Martin shook his head. "That night was the one night for me. I was in paradise. Its commonplace with you, I know. But it wasnt to me. I shall never live at such a pitch again. Im done with philosophy. I want never to hear another word of it." "The first dollar I ever made in my life out of my philosophy," Kreis remarked, as he paused in the doorway. "And then the market broke." Mrs. Morse drove by Martin on the street one day, and smiled and nodded. He smiled back and lifted his hat. The episode did not affect him. A month before it might have disgusted him, or made him curious and set him to speculating about her state of consciousness at that moment. But now it was not provocative of a second thought. He forgot about it the next moment. He forgot about it as he would have forgotten the Central Bank Building or the City Hall after having walked past them. Yet his mind was preternaturally active. His thoughts went ever around and around in a circle. The centre of that circle was "work performed"; it ate at his brain like a deathless maggot. He awoke to it in the morning. It tormented his dreams at night. Every affair of life around him that penetrated through his senses immediately related itself to "work performed." He drove along the path of relentless logic to the conclusion that he was nobody, nothing. Mart Eden,

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