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Martin Eden 40

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

to bear. You couldnt hope to be a blacksmith without spending three years at learning the trade--or is it five years! Now writers are so much better paid than blacksmiths that there must be ever so many more men who would like to write, who--try to write." "But then, may not I be peculiarly constituted to write?" he queried, secretly exulting at the language he had used, his swift imagination throwing the whole scene and atmosphere upon a vast screen along with a thousand other scenes from his life--scenes that were rough and raw, gross and bestial. The whole composite vision was achieved with the speed of light, producing no pause in the conversation, nor interrupting his calm train of thought. On the screen of his imagination he saw himself and this sweet and beautiful girl, facing each other and conversing in good English, in a room of books and paintings and tone and culture, and all illuminated by a bright light of steadfast brilliance; while ranged about and fading away to the remote edges of the screen were antithetical scenes, each scene a picture, and he the onlooker, free to look at will upon what he wished. He saw these other scenes through drifting vapors and swirls of sullen fog dissolving before shafts of red and garish light. He saw cowboys at the bar, drinking fierce whiskey, the air filled with obscenity and ribald language, and he saw himself with them drinking and cursing with the wildest, or sitting at table with them, under smoking kerosene lamps, while the chips clicked and clattered and the cards were dealt around. He saw himself, stripped to the waist, with naked fists, fighting his great fight with Liverpool Red in the forecastle of the Susquehanna; and he saw the bloody deck of the John Rogers, that gray morning of attempted mutiny, the mate kicking in death- throes on the main-hatch, the revolver in the old mans hand spitting fire and smoke, the men with passion-wrenched faces, of brutes screaming vile blasphemies and falling about him--and then he returned to the central scene, calm and clean in the steadfast light, where Ruth sat and talked with him amid books and paintings; and he saw the grand piano upon which she would later play to him; and he heard the echoes of his own selected and correct words, "But then, may I not be peculiarly constituted to write?" "But no matter how peculiarly constituted a man may be for blacksmithing," she was laughing, "I never heard of one becoming a blacksmith without first serving his apprenticeship." "What would you advise?" he asked. "And dont forget that I feel in me this capacity to write--I cant explain it; I just know that it is in me." "You must get a thorough education," was the answer, "whether or not you ultimately become a writer. This education is indispensable for whatever career you select, and it must not be slipshod or sketchy. You should go to high school." "Yes--" he began; but she interrupted with an afterthought:- "Of course, you could go on with your writing, too." "I would have to," he said grimly. "Why?" She looked at him, prettily puzzled, for she did not quite like the persistence with which he clung to his notion. "Because, without writing there wouldnt be any high school. I must live and buy books and clothes, you know." "Id forgotten that," she laughed. "Why werent you born with an income?" "Id rather have good health and imagination," he answered. "I can make good on the income, but the other things have to be made good for--" He almost said "you," then amended his sentence to, "have to be made good for one." "Dont say make good," she cried, sweetly petulant. "Its slang, and its horrid." He flushed, and stammered, "Thats right, and I only wish youd correct me every time." "I--Id like to," she said haltingly. "You have so much in you that is good that I want to see you perfect." He was clay in her hands immediately, as passionately desirous of being moulded by her as she was desirous of shaping him into the image of her ideal of man. And when she pointed out the opportuneness of the time, that the entrance examinations to high school began on the following Monday, he promptly volunteered that he would take them. Then she played and sang to him, while he gazed with hungry yearning at her, drinking in her loveliness and marvelling

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