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Martin Eden 9

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

were fit but which he feared he could not pronounce, rejecting other words he knew would not be understood or would be raw and harsh. But all the time he was oppressed by the consciousness that this carefulness of diction was making a booby of him, preventing him from expressing what he had in him. Also, his love of freedom chafed against the restriction in much the same way his neck chafed against the starched fetter of a collar. Besides, he was confident that he could not keep it up. He was by nature powerful of thought and sensibility, and the creative spirit was restive and urgent. He was swiftly mastered by the concept or sensation in him that struggled in birth-throes to receive expression and form, and then he forgot himself and where he was, and the old words--the tools of speech he knew--slipped out. Once, he declined something from the servant who interrupted and pestered at his shoulder, and he said, shortly and emphatically, "Pew!" On the instant those at the table were keyed up and expectant, the servant was smugly pleased, and he was wallowing in mortification. But he recovered himself quickly. "Its the Kanaka for finish," he explained, "and it just come out naturally. Its spelt p-a-u." He caught her curious and speculative eyes fixed on his hands, and, being in explanatory mood, he said:- "I just come down the Coast on one of the Pacific mail steamers. She was behind time, an around the Puget Sound ports we worked like niggers, storing cargo-mixed freight, if you know what that means. Thats how the skin got knocked off." "Oh, it wasnt that," she hastened to explain, in turn. "Your hands seemed too small for your body." His cheeks were hot. He took it as an exposure of another of his deficiencies. "Yes," he said depreciatingly. "They aint big enough to stand the strain. I can hit like a mule with my arms and shoulders. They are too strong, an when I smash a man on the jaw the hands get smashed, too." He was not happy at what he had said. He was filled with disgust at himself. He had loosed the guard upon his tongue and talked about things that were not nice. "It was brave of you to help Arthur the way you did--and you a stranger," she said tactfully, aware of his discomfiture though not of the reason for it. He, in turn, realized what she had done, and in the consequent warm surge of gratefulness that overwhelmed him forgot his loose-worded tongue. "It wasnt nothin at all," he said. "Any guy ud do it for another. That bunch of hoodlums was lookin for trouble, an Arthur wasnt botherin em none. They butted in on m, an then I butted in on them an poked a few. Thats where some of the skin off my hands went, along with some of the teeth of the gang. I wouldnt a missed it for anything. When I seen--" He paused, open-mouthed, on the verge of the pit of his own depravity and utter worthlessness to breathe the same air she did. And while Arthur took up the tale, for the twentieth time, of his adventure with the drunken hoodlums on the ferry-boat and of how Martin Eden had rushed in and rescued him, that individual, with frowning brows, meditated upon the fool he had made of himself, and wrestled more determinedly with the problem of how he should conduct himself toward these people. He certainly had not succeeded so far. He wasnt of their tribe, and he couldnt talk their lingo, was the way he put it to himself. He couldnt fake being their kind. The masquerade would fail, and besides, masquerade was foreign to his nature. There was no room in him for sham or artifice. Whatever happened, he must be real. He couldnt talk their talk just yet, though in time he would. Upon that he was resolved. But in the meantime, talk he must, and it must be his own talk, toned down, of course, so as to be comprehensible to them and so as not to shook them too much. And furthermore, he wouldnt claim, not even by tacit acceptance, to be familiar with anything that was unfamiliar. In pursuance of this decision, when the two brothers, talking university shop, had used

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