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Martin Eden 99

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Martin Eden

The Pickwick Papers

The Sea Wolf

have now, right now, if you could get it?" "Shoe alla da roun for da childs--seven pairs da shoe." "You shall have them," he announced, while she nodded her head gravely. "But I mean a big wish, something big that you want." Her eyes sparkled good-naturedly. He was choosing to make fun with her, Maria, with whom few made fun these days. "Think hard," he cautioned, just as she was opening her mouth to speak. "Alla right," she answered. "I thinka da hard. I lika da house, dis house--all mine, no paya da rent, seven dollar da month." "You shall have it," he granted, "and in a short time. Now wish the great wish. Make believe I am God, and I say to you anything you want you can have. Then you wish that thing, and I listen." Maria considered solemnly for a space. "You no fraid?" she asked warningly. "No, no," he laughed, "Im not afraid. Go ahead." "Most verra big," she warned again. "All right. Fire away." "Well, den--" She drew a big breath like a child, as she voiced to the uttermost all she cared to demand of life. "I lika da have one milka ranch--good milka ranch. Plenty cow, plenty land, plenty grass. I lika da have near San Le-an; my sister liva dere. I sella da milk in Oakland. I maka da plentee mon. Joe an Nick no runna da cow. Dey go-a to school. Bimeby maka da good engineer, worka da railroad. Yes, I lika da milka ranch." She paused and regarded Martin with twinkling eyes. "You shall have it," he answered promptly. She nodded her head and touched her lips courteously to the wine-glass and to the giver of the gift she knew would never be given. His heart was right, and in her own heart she appreciated his intention as much as if the gift had gone with it. "No, Maria," he went on; "Nick and Joe wont have to peddle milk, and all the kids can go to school and wear shoes the whole year round. It will be a first-class milk ranch--everything complete. There will be a house to live in and a stable for the horses, and cow-barns, of course. There will be chickens, pigs, vegetables, fruit trees, and everything like that; and there will be enough cows to pay for a hired man or two. Then you wont have anything to do but take care of the children. For that matter, if you find a good man, you can marry and take it easy while he runs the ranch." And from such largess, dispensed from his future, Martin turned and took his one good suit of clothes to the pawnshop. His plight was desperate for him to do this, for it cut him off from Ruth. He had no second-best suit that was presentable, and though he could go to the butcher and the baker, and even on occasion to his sisters, it was beyond all daring to dream of entering the Morse home so disreputably apparelled. He toiled on, miserable and well-nigh hopeless. It began to appear to him that the second battle was lost and that he would have to go to work. In doing this he would satisfy everybody--the grocer, his sister, Ruth, and even Maria, to whom he owed a months room rent. He was two months behind with his type-writer, and the agency was clamoring for payment or for the return of the machine. In desperation, all but ready to surrender, to make a truce with fate until he could get a fresh start, he took the civil service examinations for the Railway Mail. To his surprise, he passed first. The job was assured, though when the call would come to enter upon his duties nobody knew. It was at this time, at the lowest ebb, that the smooth-running editorial machine broke down. A cog must have slipped or an oil-cup run dry, for the postman brought him one morning a short, thin envelope. Martin glanced at the upper left-hand corner and read the name and address of the Transcontinental Monthly. His heart gave a great leap, and he suddenly felt faint, the sinking feeling accompanied by a strange trembling of the knees. He staggered into his room and sat down on the bed, the envelope still unopened, and in that

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