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Martin Eden 179







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




the hoodlum, and Mart Eden, the sailor, had been real, had been he; but Martin Eden! the famous writer, did not exist. Martin Eden, the famous writer, was a vapor that had arisen in the mob-mind and by the mob-mind had been thrust into the corporeal being of Mart Eden, the hoodlum and sailor. But it couldnt fool him. He was not that sun-myth that the mob was worshipping and sacrificing dinners to. He knew better. He read the magazines about himself, and pored over portraits of himself published therein until he was unable to associate his identity with those portraits. He was the fellow who had lived and thrilled and loved; who had been easy-going and tolerant of the frailties of life; who had served in the forecastle, wandered in strange lands, and led his gang in the old fighting days. He was the fellow who had been stunned at first by the thousands of books in the free library, and who had afterward learned his way among them and mastered them; he was the fellow who had burned the midnight oil and bedded with a spur and written books himself. But the one thing he was not was that colossal appetite that all the mob was bent upon feeding. There were things, however, in the magazines that amused him. All the magazines were claiming him. Warrens Monthly advertised to its subscribers that it was always on the quest after new writers, and that, among others, it had introduced Martin Eden to the reading public. The White Mouse claimed him; so did The Northern Review and Mackintoshs Magazine, until silenced by The Globe, which pointed triumphantly to its files where the mangled "Sea Lyrics" lay buried. Youth and Age, which had come to life again after having escaped paying its bills, put in a prior claim, which nobody but farmers children ever read. The Transcontinental made a dignified and convincing statement of how it first discovered Martin Eden, which was warmly disputed by The Hornet, with the exhibit of "The Peri and the Pearl." The modest claim of Singletree, Darnley & Co. was lost in the din. Besides, that publishing firm did not own a magazine wherewith to make its claim less modest. The newspapers calculated Martins royalties. In some way the magnificent offers certain magazines had made him leaked out, and Oakland ministers called upon him in a friendly way, while professional begging letters began to clutter his mail. But worse than all this were the women. His photographs were published broadcast, and special writers exploited his strong, bronzed face, his scars, his heavy shoulders, his clear, quiet eyes, and the slight hollows in his cheeks like an ascetics. At this last he remembered his wild youth and smiled. Often, among the women he met, he would see now one, now another, looking at him, appraising him, selecting him. He laughed to himself. He remembered Brissendens warning and laughed again. The women would never destroy him, that much was certain. He had gone past that stage. Once, walking with Lizzie toward night school, she caught a glance directed toward him by a well-gowned, handsome woman of the bourgeoisie. The glance was a trifle too long, a shade too considerative. Lizzie knew it for what it was, and her body tensed angrily. Martin noticed, noticed the cause of it, told her how used he was becoming to it and that he did not care anyway. "You ought to care," she answered with blazing eyes. "Youre sick. Thats whats the matter." "Never healthier in my life. I weigh five pounds more than I ever did." "It aint your body. Its your head. Somethings wrong with your think- machine. Even I can see that, an I aint nobody." He walked on beside her, reflecting. "Id give anything to see you get over it," she broke out impulsively. "You ought to care when women look at you that way, a man like you. Its not natural. Its all right enough for sissy-boys. But you aint made that way. So help me, Id be willing an glad if the right woman came along an made you care." When he left Lizzie at night school, he returned to the Metropole. Once in his rooms, he dropped into a Morris chair and sat staring straight before him. He did not doze. Nor did

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