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Martin Eden 180







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




he think. His mind was a blank, save for the intervals when unsummoned memory pictures took form and color and radiance just under his eyelids. He saw these pictures, but he was scarcely conscious of them--no more so than if they had been dreams. Yet he was not asleep. Once, he roused himself and glanced at his watch. It was just eight oclock. He had nothing to do, and it was too early for bed. Then his mind went blank again, and the pictures began to form and vanish under his eyelids. There was nothing distinctive about the pictures. They were always masses of leaves and shrub-like branches shot through with hot sunshine. A knock at the door aroused him. He was not asleep, and his mind immediately connected the knock with a telegram, or letter, or perhaps one of the servants bringing back clean clothes from the laundry. He was thinking about Joe and wondering where he was, as he said, "Come in." He was still thinking about Joe, and did not turn toward the door. He heard it close softly. There was a long silence. He forgot that there had been a knock at the door, and was still staring blankly before him when he heard a womans sob. It was involuntary, spasmodic, checked, and stifled--he noted that as he turned about. The next instant he was on his feet. "Ruth!" he said, amazed and bewildered. Her face was white and strained. She stood just inside the door, one hand against it for support, the other pressed to her side. She extended both hands toward him piteously, and started forward to meet him. As he caught her hands and led her to the Morris chair he noticed how cold they were. He drew up another chair and sat down on the broad arm of it. He was too confused to speak. In his own mind his affair with Ruth was closed and sealed. He felt much in the same way that he would have felt had the Shelly Hot Springs Laundry suddenly invaded the Hotel Metropole with a whole weeks washing ready for him to pitch into. Several times he was about to speak, and each time he hesitated. "No one knows I am here," Ruth said in a faint voice, with an appealing smile. "What did you say?" He was surprised at the sound of his own voice. She repeated her words. "Oh," he said, then wondered what more he could possibly say. "I saw you come in, and I waited a few minutes." "Oh," he said again. He had never been so tongue-tied in his life. Positively he did not have an idea in his head. He felt stupid and awkward, but for the life of him he could think of nothing to say. It would have been easier had the intrusion been the Shelly Hot Springs laundry. He could have rolled up his sleeves and gone to work. "And then you came in," he said finally. She nodded, with a slightly arch expression, and loosened the scarf at her throat. "I saw you first from across the street when you were with that girl." "Oh, yes," he said simply. "I took her down to night school." "Well, arent you glad to see me?" she said at the end of another silence. "Yes, yes." He spoke hastily. "But wasnt it rash of you to come here?" "I slipped in. Nobody knows I am here. I wanted to see you. I came to tell you I have been very foolish. I came because I could no longer stay away, because my heart compelled me to come, because--because I wanted to come." She came forward, out of her chair and over to him. She rested her hand on his shoulder a moment, breathing quickly, and then slipped into his arms. And in his large, easy way, desirous of not inflicting hurt, knowing that to repulse this proffer of herself was to inflict the most grievous hurt a woman could receive, he folded his arms around her and held her close. But there was no warmth in the embrace, no caress in the contact. She had come into his arms, and he held her, that was all. She nestled against him, and then, with a change of position, her hands crept up and

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