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Martin Eden 183

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

class-ideals, class-values, and class-prejudices." He shook his head sadly. "And you do not understand, even now, what I am saying. My words do not mean to you what I endeavor to make them mean. What I say is so much fantasy to you. Yet to me it is vital reality. At the best you are a trifle puzzled and amused that this raw boy, crawling up out of the mire of the abyss, should pass judgment upon your class and call it vulgar." She leaned her head wearily against his shoulder, and her body shivered with recurrent nervousness. He waited for a time for her to speak, and then went on. "And now you want to renew our love. You want us to be married. You want me. And yet, listen--if my books had not been noticed, Id nevertheless have been just what I am now. And you would have stayed away. It is all those damned books--" "Dont swear," she interrupted. Her reproof startled him. He broke into a harsh laugh. "Thats it," he said, "at a high moment, when what seems your lifes happiness is at stake, you are afraid of life in the same old way--afraid of life and a healthy oath." She was stung by his words into realization of the puerility of her act, and yet she felt that he had magnified it unduly and was consequently resentful. They sat in silence for a long time, she thinking desperately and he pondering upon his love which had departed. He knew, now, that he had not really loved her. It was an idealized Ruth he had loved, an ethereal creature of his own creating, the bright and luminous spirit of his love-poems. The real bourgeois Ruth, with all the bourgeois failings and with the hopeless cramp of the bourgeois psychology in her mind, he had never loved. She suddenly began to speak. "I know that much you have said is so. I have been afraid of life. I did not love you well enough. I have learned to love better. I love you for what you are, for what you were, for the ways even by which you have become. I love you for the ways wherein you differ from what you call my class, for your beliefs which I do not understand but which I know I can come to understand. I shall devote myself to understanding them. And even your smoking and your swearing--they are part of you and I will love you for them, too. I can still learn. In the last ten minutes I have learned much. That I have dared to come here is a token of what I have already learned. Oh, Martin!--" She was sobbing and nestling close against him. For the first time his arms folded her gently and with sympathy, and she acknowledged it with a happy movement and a brightening face. "It is too late," he said. He remembered Lizzies words. "I am a sick man--oh, not my body. It is my soul, my brain. I seem to have lost all values. I care for nothing. If you had been this way a few months ago, it would have been different. It is too late, now." "It is not too late," she cried. "I will show you. I will prove to you that my love has grown, that it is greater to me than my class and all that is dearest to me. All that is dearest to the bourgeoisie I will flout. I am no longer afraid of life. I will leave my father and mother, and let my name become a by-word with my friends. I will come to you here and now, in free love if you will, and I will be proud and glad to be with you. If I have been a traitor to love, I will now, for loves sake, be a traitor to all that made that earlier treason." She stood before him, with shining eyes. "I am waiting, Martin," she whispered, "waiting for you to accept me. Look at me." It was splendid, he thought, looking at her. She had redeemed herself for all that she had lacked, rising up at last, true woman, superior to the iron rule of bourgeois convention. It was splendid,

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