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Martin Eden 31

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

flushed again. "And you say ben for been," she continued; "come for came; and the way you chop your endings is something dreadful." "How do you mean?" He leaned forward, feeling that he ought to get down on his knees before so marvellous a mind. "How do I chop?" "You dont complete the endings. A-n-d spells and. You pronounce it an. I-n-g spells ing. Sometimes you pronounce it ing and sometimes you leave off the g. And then you slur by dropping initial letters and diphthongs. T-h-e-m spells them. You pronounce it--oh, well, it is not necessary to go over all of them. What you need is the grammar. Ill get one and show you how to begin." As she arose, there shot through his mind something that he had read in the etiquette books, and he stood up awkwardly, worrying as to whether he was doing the right thing, and fearing that she might take it as a sign that he was about to go. "By the way, Mr. Eden," she called back, as she was leaving the room. "What is _booze_? You used it several times, you know." "Oh, booze," he laughed. "Its slang. It means whiskey an beer--anything that will make you drunk." "And another thing," she laughed back. "Dont use you when you are impersonal. You is very personal, and your use of it just now was not precisely what you meant." "I dont just see that." "Why, you said just now, to me, whiskey and beer--anything that will make you drunk--make me drunk, dont you see?" "Well, it would, wouldnt it?" "Yes, of course," she smiled. "But it would be nicer not to bring me into it. Substitute one for you and see how much better it sounds." When she returned with the grammar, she drew a chair near his--he wondered if he should have helped her with the chair--and sat down beside him. She turned the pages of the grammar, and their heads were inclined toward each other. He could hardly follow her outlining of the work he must do, so amazed was he by her delightful propinquity. But when she began to lay down the importance of conjugation, he forgot all about her. He had never heard of conjugation, and was fascinated by the glimpse he was catching into the tie-ribs of language. He leaned closer to the page, and her hair touched his cheek. He had fainted but once in his life, and he thought he was going to faint again. He could scarcely breathe, and his heart was pounding the blood up into his throat and suffocating him. Never had she seemed so accessible as now. For the moment the great gulf that separated them was bridged. But there was no diminution in the loftiness of his feeling for her. She had not descended to him. It was he who had been caught up into the clouds and carried to her. His reverence for her, in that moment, was of the same order as religious awe and fervor. It seemed to him that he had intruded upon the holy of holies, and slowly and carefully he moved his head aside from the contact which thrilled him like an electric shock and of which she had not been aware.


Several weeks went by, during which Martin Eden studied his grammar, reviewed the books on etiquette, and read voraciously the books that caught his fancy. Of his own class he saw nothing. The girls of the Lotus Club wondered what had become of him and worried Jim with questions, and some of the fellows who put on the glove at Rileys were glad that Martin came no more. He made another discovery of treasure- trove in the library. As the grammar had shown him the tie-ribs of language, so that book showed him the tie-ribs of poetry, and he began to learn metre and construction and form, beneath the beauty he loved finding the why and wherefore of that beauty. Another modern book he found treated poetry as a representative art, treated it exhaustively, with copious illustrations from the best in literature. Never had he read fiction with so keen zest as he studied these books. And his fresh mind, untaxed for twenty years and impelled by maturity of desire, gripped hold

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