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Martin Eden 89

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

night for the comic weeklies; and just as I was going to bed, the thought struck me to try my hand at a triolet--a humorous one; and inside an hour I had written four. They ought to be worth a dollar apiece. Four dollars right there for a few afterthoughts on the way to bed." "Of course its all valueless, just so much dull and sordid plodding; but it is no more dull and sordid than keeping books at sixty dollars a month, adding up endless columns of meaningless figures until one dies. And furthermore, the hack-work keeps me in touch with things literary and gives me time to try bigger things." "But what good are these bigger-things, these masterpieces?" Ruth demanded. "You cant sell them." "Oh, yes, I can," he began; but she interrupted. "All those you named, and which you say yourself are good--you have not sold any of them. We cant get married on masterpieces that wont sell." "Then well get married on triolets that will sell," he asserted stoutly, putting his arm around her and drawing a very unresponsive sweetheart toward him. "Listen to this," he went on in attempted gayety. "Its not art, but its a dollar. "He came in When I was out, To borrow some tin Was why he came in, And he went without; So I was in And he was out." The merry lilt with which he had invested the jingle was at variance with the dejection that came into his face as he finished. He had drawn no smile from Ruth. She was looking at him in an earnest and troubled way. "It may be a dollar," she said, "but it is a jesters dollar, the fee of a clown. Dont you see, Martin, the whole thing is lowering. I want the man I love and honor to be something finer and higher than a perpetrator of jokes and doggerel." "You want him to be like--say Mr. Butler?" he suggested. "I know you dont like Mr. Butler," she began. "Mr. Butlers all right," he interrupted. "Its only his indigestion I find fault with. But to save me I cant see any difference between writing jokes or comic verse and running a type-writer, taking dictation, or keeping sets of books. It is all a means to an end. Your theory is for me to begin with keeping books in order to become a successful lawyer or man of business. Mine is to begin with hack-work and develop into an able author." "There is a difference," she insisted. "What is it?" "Why, your good work, what you yourself call good, you cant sell. You have tried, you know that,--but the editors wont buy it." "Give me time, dear," he pleaded. "The hack-work is only makeshift, and I dont take it seriously. Give me two years. I shall succeed in that time, and the editors will be glad to buy my good work. I know what I am saying; I have faith in myself. I know what I have in me; I know what literature is, now; I know the average rot that is poured out by a lot of little men; and I know that at the end of two years I shall be on the highroad to success. As for business, I shall never succeed at it. I am not in sympathy with it. It strikes me as dull, and stupid, and mercenary, and tricky. Anyway I am not adapted for it. Id never get beyond a clerkship, and how could you and I be happy on the paltry earnings of a clerk? I want the best of everything in the world for you, and the only time when I wont want it will be when there is something better. And Im going to get it, going to get all of it. The income of a successful author makes Mr. Butler look cheap. A best-seller will earn anywhere between fifty and a hundred thousand dollars--sometimes more and sometimes less; but, as a rule, pretty close to those figures." She remained silent; her disappointment was apparent. "Well?" he asked. "I had hoped and planned otherwise. I had thought, and I still think, that the best thing for you would be to study shorthand--you already know type-writing--and go into

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