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Martin Eden 73

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

third week went by, and Martin loathed himself, and loathed life. He was oppressed by a sense of failure. There was reason for the editors refusing his stuff. He could see that clearly now, and laugh at himself and the dreams he had dreamed. Ruth returned his "Sea Lyrics" by mail. He read her letter apathetically. She did her best to say how much she liked them and that they were beautiful. But she could not lie, and she could not disguise the truth from herself. She knew they were failures, and he read her disapproval in every perfunctory and unenthusiastic line of her letter. And she was right. He was firmly convinced of it as he read the poems over. Beauty and wonder had departed from him, and as he read the poems he caught himself puzzling as to what he had had in mind when he wrote them. His audacities of phrase struck him as grotesque, his felicities of expression were monstrosities, and everything was absurd, unreal, and impossible. He would have burned the "Sea Lyrics" on the spot, had his will been strong enough to set them aflame. There was the engine-room, but the exertion of carrying them to the furnace was not worth while. All his exertion was used in washing other persons clothes. He did not have any left for private affairs. He resolved that when Sunday came he would pull himself together and answer Ruths letter. But Saturday afternoon, after work was finished and he had taken a bath, the desire to forget overpowered him. "I guess Ill go down and see how Joes getting on," was the way he put it to himself; and in the same moment he knew that he lied. But he did not have the energy to consider the lie. If he had had the energy, he would have refused to consider the lie, because he wanted to forget. He started for the village slowly and casually, increasing his pace in spite of himself as he neared the saloon. "I thought you was on the water-wagon," was Joes greeting. Martin did not deign to offer excuses, but called for whiskey, filling his own glass brimming before he passed the bottle. "Dont take all night about it," he said roughly. The other was dawdling with the bottle, and Martin refused to wait for him, tossing the glass off in a gulp and refilling it. "Now, I can wait for you," he said grimly; "but hurry up." Joe hurried, and they drank together. "The work did it, eh?" Joe queried. Martin refused to discuss the matter. "Its fair hell, I know," the other went on, "but I kind of hate to see you come off the wagon, Mart. Well, heres how!" Martin drank on silently, biting out his orders and invitations and awing the barkeeper, an effeminate country youngster with watery blue eyes and hair parted in the middle. "Its something scandalous the way they work us poor devils," Joe was remarking. "If I didnt bowl up, Id break loose an burn down the shebang. My bowlin up is all that saves em, I can tell you that." But Martin made no answer. A few more drinks, and in his brain he felt the maggots of intoxication beginning to crawl. Ah, it was living, the first breath of life he had breathed in three weeks. His dreams came back to him. Fancy came out of the darkened room and lured him on, a thing of flaming brightness. His mirror of vision was silver-clear, a flashing, dazzling palimpsest of imagery. Wonder and beauty walked with him, hand in hand, and all power was his. He tried to tell it to Joe, but Joe had visions of his own, infallible schemes whereby he would escape the slavery of laundry-work and become himself the owner of a great steam laundry. "I tell yeh, Mart, they wont be no kids workin in my laundry--not on yer life. An they wont be no workin a livin soul after six P.M. You hear me talk! Theyll be machinery enough an hands enough to do it all in decent workin hours, an Mart, shelp me, Ill make yeh superintendent of the shebang--the whole of it, all of it. Now heres the scheme. I get on the water-wagon an save my money for two years--save

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