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Martin Eden 29

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

because he was a remarkable type. She was very sensitive to impressions, and it was not strange, after all, that this aura of a traveller from another world should so affect her. The problem in the background of her consciousness was how to help him, and she turned the conversation in that direction; but it was Martin who came to the point first. "I wonder if I can get some advice from you," he began, and received an acquiescence of willingness that made his heart bound. "You remember the other time I was here I said I couldnt talk about books an things because I didnt know how? Well, Ive ben doin a lot of thinkin ever since. Ive ben to the library a whole lot, but most of the books Ive tackled have ben over my head. Mebbe Id better begin at the beginnin. I aint never had no advantages. Ive worked pretty hard ever since I was a kid, an since Ive ben to the library, lookin with new eyes at books--an lookin at new books, too--Ive just about concluded that I aint ben reading the right kind. You know the books you find in cattle- camps an focsls aint the same youve got in this house, for instance. Well, thats the sort of readin matter Ive ben accustomed to. And yet--an I aint just makin a brag of it--Ive ben different from the people Ive herded with. Not that Im any better than the sailors an cow-punchers I travelled with,--I was cow-punchin for a short time, you know,--but I always liked books, read everything I could lay hands on, an--well, I guess I think differently from most of em. "Now, to come to what Im drivin at. I was never inside a house like this. When I come a week ago, an saw all this, an you, an your mother, an brothers, an everything--well, I liked it. Id heard about such things an read about such things in some of the books, an when I looked around at your house, why, the books come true. But the thing Im after is I liked it. I wanted it. I want it now. I want to breathe air like you get in this house--air that is filled with books, and pictures, and beautiful things, where people talk in low voices an are clean, an their thoughts are clean. The air I always breathed was mixed up with grub an house-rent an scrappin an booze an thats all they talked about, too. Why, when you was crossin the room to kiss your mother, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I ever seen. Ive seen a whole lot of life, an somehow Ive seen a whole lot more of it than most of them that was with me. I like to see, an I want to see more, an I want to see it different. "But I aint got to the point yet. Here it is. I want to make my way to the kind of life you have in this house. Theres more in life than booze, an hard work, an knockin about. Now, how am I goin to get it? Where do I take hold an begin? Im willin to work my passage, you know, an I can make most men sick when it comes to hard work. Once I get started, Ill work night an day. Mebbe you think its funny, me askin you about all this. I know youre the last person in the world I ought to ask, but I dont know anybody else I could ask--unless its Arthur. Mebbe I ought to ask him. If I was--" His voice died away. His firmly planned intention had come to a halt on the verge of the horrible probability that he should have asked Arthur and that he had made a fool of himself. Ruth did not speak immediately. She was too absorbed in striving to reconcile the stumbling, uncouth speech and its simplicity of thought with what she saw in his face. She had never looked in eyes that expressed greater power. Here was a man who could do anything, was the message she read there, and it accorded ill with the weakness of his spoken thought. And for that matter so complex

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