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Martin Eden 70







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Books:

Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf




sleep, and awoke by the alarm, feeling that he had not had enough. "Doin much readin?" Joe asked. Martin shook his head. "Never mind. We got to run the mangle to-night, but Thursday well knock off at six. Thatll give you a chance." Martin washed woollens that day, by hand, in a large barrel, with strong soft-soap, by means of a hub from a wagon wheel, mounted on a plunger- pole that was attached to a spring-pole overhead. "My invention," Joe said proudly. "Beats a washboard an your knuckles, and, besides, it saves at least fifteen minutes in the week, an fifteen minutes aint to be sneezed at in this shebang." Running the collars and cuffs through the mangle was also Joes idea. That night, while they toiled on under the electric lights, he explained it. "Something no laundry ever does, except this one. An I got to do it if Im goin to get done Saturday afternoon at three oclock. But I know how, an thats the difference. Got to have right heat, right pressure, and run em through three times. Look at that!" He held a cuff aloft. "Couldnt do it better by hand or on a tiler." Thursday, Joe was in a rage. A bundle of extra "fancy starch" had come in. "Im goin to quit," he announced. "I wont stand for it. Im goin to quit it cold. Whats the good of me workin like a slave all week, a- savin minutes, an them a-comin an ringin in fancy-starch extras on me? This is a free country, an Im to tell that fat Dutchman what I think of him. An I wont tell m in French. Plain United States is good enough for me. Him a-ringin in fancy starch extras!" "We got to work to-night," he said the next moment, reversing his judgment and surrendering to fate. And Martin did no reading that night. He had seen no daily paper all week, and, strangely to him, felt no desire to see one. He was not interested in the news. He was too tired and jaded to be interested in anything, though he planned to leave Saturday afternoon, if they finished at three, and ride on his wheel to Oakland. It was seventy miles, and the same distance back on Sunday afternoon would leave him anything but rested for the second weeks work. It would have been easier to go on the train, but the round trip was two dollars and a half, and he was intent on saving money.

CHAPTER XVII

Martin learned to do many things. In the course of the first week, in one afternoon, he and Joe accounted for the two hundred white shirts. Joe ran the tiler, a machine wherein a hot iron was hooked on a steel string which furnished the pressure. By this means he ironed the yoke, wristbands, and neckband, setting the latter at right angles to the shirt, and put the glossy finish on the bosom. As fast as he finished them, he flung the shirts on a rack between him and Martin, who caught them up and "backed" them. This task consisted of ironing all the unstarched portions of the shirts. It was exhausting work, carried on, hour after hour, at top speed. Out on the broad verandas of the hotel, men and women, in cool white, sipped iced drinks and kept their circulation down. But in the laundry the air was sizzling. The huge stove roared red hot and white hot, while the irons, moving over the damp cloth, sent up clouds of steam. The heat of these irons was different from that used by housewives. An iron that stood the ordinary test of a wet finger was too cold for Joe and Martin, and such test was useless. They went wholly by holding the irons close to their cheeks, gauging the heat by some secret mental process that Martin admired but could not understand. When the fresh irons proved too hot, they hooked them on iron rods and dipped them into cold water. This again required a precise and subtle judgment. A fraction of a second too long in the water and the fine and silken edge of the proper heat was lost, and Martin found time to marvel at the accuracy he developed--an automatic accuracy, founded upon criteria

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