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Martin Eden 76

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

came to the parting of the ways. "They aint no use in me askin you to change your mind an hit the road with me?" Joe asked hopelessly: Martin shook his head. He was standing by his wheel, ready to start. They shook hands, and Joe held on to his for a moment, as he said:- "Im goin to see you again, Mart, before you an me die. Thats straight dope. I feel it in my bones. Good-by, Mart, an be good. I like you like hell, you know." He stood, a forlorn figure, in the middle of the road, watching until Martin turned a bend and was gone from sight. "Hes a good Indian, that boy," he muttered. "A good Indian." Then he plodded down the road himself, to the water tank, where half a dozen empties lay on a side-track waiting for the up freight.


Ruth and her family were home again, and Martin, returned to Oakland, saw much of her. Having gained her degree, she was doing no more studying; and he, having worked all vitality out of his mind and body, was doing no writing. This gave them time for each other that they had never had before, and their intimacy ripened fast. At first, Martin had done nothing but rest. He had slept a great deal, and spent long hours musing and thinking and doing nothing. He was like one recovering from some terrible bout if hardship. The first signs of reawakening came when he discovered more than languid interest in the daily paper. Then he began to read again--light novels, and poetry; and after several days more he was head over heels in his long-neglected Fiske. His splendid body and health made new vitality, and he possessed all the resiliency and rebound of youth. Ruth showed her disappointment plainly when he announced that he was going to sea for another voyage as soon as he was well rested. "Why do you want to do that?" she asked. "Money," was the answer. "Ill have to lay in a supply for my next attack on the editors. Money is the sinews of war, in my case--money and patience." "But if all you wanted was money, why didnt you stay in the laundry?" "Because the laundry was making a beast of me. Too much work of that sort drives to drink." She stared at him with horror in her eyes. "Do you mean--?" she quavered. It would have been easy for him to get out of it; but his natural impulse was for frankness, and he remembered his old resolve to be frank, no matter what happened. "Yes," he answered. "Just that. Several times." She shivered and drew away from him. "No man that I have ever known did that--ever did that." "Then they never worked in the laundry at Shelly Hot Springs," he laughed bitterly. "Toil is a good thing. It is necessary for human health, so all the preachers say, and Heaven knows Ive never been afraid of it. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and the laundry up there is one of them. And thats why Im going to sea one more voyage. It will be my last, I think, for when I come back, I shall break into the magazines. I am certain of it." She was silent, unsympathetic, and he watched her moodily, realizing how impossible it was for her to understand what he had been through. "Some day I shall write it up--The Degradation of Toil or the Psychology of Drink in the Working-class, or something like that for a title." Never, since the first meeting, had they seemed so far apart as that day. His confession, told in frankness, with the spirit of revolt behind, had repelled her. But she was more shocked by the repulsion itself than by the cause of it. It pointed out to her how near she had drawn to him, and once accepted, it paved the way for greater intimacy. Pity, too, was aroused, and innocent, idealistic thoughts of reform. She would save this raw young man who had come so far. She would save him from the curse of his early environment, and she would save him from himself in spite of himself. And all this affected her as a very noble state of consciousness; nor did

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