Part 6 out of 8
think of it? Is it utterly hopeless? How does it compare with
other men's work?"
"But they sell theirs, and you - don't."
"That doesn't answer my question. Do you think that literature is
not at all my vocation?"
"Then I will answer." She steeled herself to do it. "I don't
think you were made to write. Forgive me, dear. You compel me to
say it; and you know I know more about literature than you do."
"Yes, you are a Bachelor of Arts," he said meditatively; "and you
ought to know."
"But there is more to be said," he continued, after a pause painful
to both. "I know what I have in me. No one knows that so well as
I. I know I shall succeed. I will not be kept down. I am afire
with what I have to say in verse, and fiction, and essay. I do not
ask you to have faith in that, though. I do not ask you to have
faith in me, nor in my writing. What I do ask of you is to love me
and have faith in love."
"A year ago I believed for two years. One of those years is yet to
run. And I do believe, upon my honor and my soul, that before that
year is run I shall have succeeded. You remember what you told me
long ago, that I must serve my apprenticeship to writing. Well, I
have served it. I have crammed it and telescoped it. With you at
the end awaiting me, I have never shirked. Do you know, I have
forgotten what it is to fall peacefully asleep. A few million
years ago I knew what it was to sleep my fill and to awake
naturally from very glut of sleep. I am awakened always now by an
alarm clock. If I fall asleep early or late, I set the alarm
accordingly; and this, and the putting out of the lamp, are my last
"When I begin to feel drowsy, I change the heavy book I am reading
for a lighter one. And when I doze over that, I beat my head with
my knuckles in order to drive sleep away. Somewhere I read of a
man who was afraid to sleep. Kipling wrote the story. This man
arranged a spur so that when unconsciousness came, his naked body
pressed against the iron teeth. Well, I've done the same. I look
at the time, and I resolve that not until midnight, or not until
one o'clock, or two o'clock, or three o'clock, shall the spur be
removed. And so it rowels me awake until the appointed time. That
spur has been my bed-mate for months. I have grown so desperate
that five and a half hours of sleep is an extravagance. I sleep
four hours now. I am starved for sleep. There are times when I am
light-headed from want of sleep, times when death, with its rest
and sleep, is a positive lure to me, times when I am haunted by
"'The sea is still and deep;
All things within its bosom sleep;
A single step and all is o'er,
A plunge, a bubble, and no more.'
"Of course, this is sheer nonsense. It comes from nervousness,
from an overwrought mind. But the point is: Why have I done this?
For you. To shorten my apprenticeship. To compel Success to
hasten. And my apprenticeship is now served. I know my equipment.
I swear that I learn more each month than the average college man
learns in a year. I know it, I tell you. But were my need for you
to understand not so desperate I should not tell you. It is not
boasting. I measure the results by the books. Your brothers, to-
day, are ignorant barbarians compared with me and the knowledge I
have wrung from the books in the hours they were sleeping. Long
ago I wanted to be famous. I care very little for fame now. What
I want is you; I am more hungry for you than for food, or clothing,
or recognition. I have a dream of laying my head on your breast
and sleeping an aeon or so, and the dream will come true ere
another year is gone."
His power beat against her, wave upon wave; and in the moment his
will opposed hers most she felt herself most strongly drawn toward
him. The strength that had always poured out from him to her was
now flowering in his impassioned voice, his flashing eyes, and the
vigor of life and intellect surging in him. And in that moment,
and for the moment, she was aware of a rift that showed in her
certitude - a rift through which she caught sight of the real
Martin Eden, splendid and invincible; and as animal-trainers have
their moments of doubt, so she, for the instant, seemed to doubt
her power to tame this wild spirit of a man.
"And another thing," he swept on. "You love me. But why do you
love me? The thing in me that compels me to write is the very
thing that draws your love. You love me because I am somehow
different from the men you have known and might have loved. I was
not made for the desk and counting-house, for petty business
squabbling, and legal jangling. Make me do such things, make me
like those other men, doing the work they do, breathing the air
they breathe, developing the point of view they have developed, and
you have destroyed the difference, destroyed me, destroyed the
thing you love. My desire to write is the most vital thing in me.
Had I been a mere clod, neither would I have desired to write, nor
would you have desired me for a husband."
"But you forget," she interrupted, the quick surface of her mind
glimpsing a parallel. "There have been eccentric inventors,
starving their families while they sought such chimeras as
perpetual motion. Doubtless their wives loved them, and suffered
with them and for them, not because of but in spite of their
infatuation for perpetual motion."
"True," was the reply. "But there have been inventors who were not
eccentric and who starved while they sought to invent practical
things; and sometimes, it is recorded, they succeeded. Certainly I
do not seek any impossibilities - "
"You have called it 'achieving the impossible,'" she interpolated.
"I spoke figuratively. I seek to do what men have done before me -
to write and to live by my writing."
Her silence spurred him on.
"To you, then, my goal is as much a chimera as perpetual motion?"
He read her answer in the pressure of her hand on his - the pitying
mother-hand for the hurt child. And to her, just then, he was the
hurt child, the infatuated man striving to achieve the impossible.
Toward the close of their talk she warned him again of the
antagonism of her father and mother.
"But you love me?" he asked.
"I do! I do!" she cried.
"And I love you, not them, and nothing they do can hurt me."
Triumph sounded in his voice. "For I have faith in your love, not
fear of their enmity. All things may go astray in this world, but
not love. Love cannot go wrong unless it be a weakling that faints
and stumbles by the way."
Martin had encountered his sister Gertrude by chance on Broadway -
as it proved, a most propitious yet disconcerting chance. Waiting
on the corner for a car, she had seen him first, and noted the
eager, hungry lines of his face and the desperate, worried look of
his eyes. In truth, he was desperate and worried. He had just
come from a fruitless interview with the pawnbroker, from whom he
had tried to wring an additional loan on his wheel. The muddy fall
weather having come on, Martin had pledged his wheel some time
since and retained his black suit.
"There's the black suit," the pawnbroker, who knew his every asset,
had answered. "You needn't tell me you've gone and pledged it with
that Jew, Lipka. Because if you have - "
The man had looked the threat, and Martin hastened to cry:-
"No, no; I've got it. But I want to wear it on a matter of
"All right," the mollified usurer had replied. "And I want it on a
matter of business before I can let you have any more money. You
don't think I'm in it for my health?"
"But it's a forty-dollar wheel, in good condition," Martin had
argued. "And you've only let me have seven dollars on it. No, not
even seven. Six and a quarter; you took the interest in advance."
"If you want some more, bring the suit," had been the reply that
sent Martin out of the stuffy little den, so desperate at heart as
to reflect it in his face and touch his sister to pity.
Scarcely had they met when the Telegraph Avenue car came along and
stopped to take on a crowd of afternoon shoppers. Mrs.
Higginbotham divined from the grip on her arm as he helped her on,
that he was not going to follow her. She turned on the step and
looked down upon him. His haggard face smote her to the heart
"Ain't you comin'?" she asked
The next moment she had descended to his side.
"I'm walking - exercise, you know," he explained.
"Then I'll go along for a few blocks," she announced. "Mebbe it'll
do me good. I ain't ben feelin' any too spry these last few days."
Martin glanced at her and verified her statement in her general
slovenly appearance, in the unhealthy fat, in the drooping
shoulders, the tired face with the sagging lines, and in the heavy
fall of her feet, without elasticity - a very caricature of the
walk that belongs to a free and happy body.
"You'd better stop here," he said, though she had already come to a
halt at the first corner, "and take the next car."
"My goodness! - if I ain't all tired a'ready!" she panted. "But
I'm just as able to walk as you in them soles. They're that thin
they'll bu'st long before you git out to North Oakland."
"I've a better pair at home," was the answer.
"Come out to dinner to-morrow," she invited irrelevantly. "Mr.
Higginbotham won't be there. He's goin' to San Leandro on
Martin shook his head, but he had failed to keep back the wolfish,
hungry look that leapt into his eyes at the suggestion of dinner.
"You haven't a penny, Mart, and that's why you're walkin'.
Exercise!" She tried to sniff contemptuously, but succeeded in
producing only a sniffle. "Here, lemme see."
And, fumbling in her satchel, she pressed a five-dollar piece into
his hand. "I guess I forgot your last birthday, Mart," she mumbled
Martin's hand instinctively closed on the piece of gold. In the
same instant he knew he ought not to accept, and found himself
struggling in the throes of indecision. That bit of gold meant
food, life, and light in his body and brain, power to go on
writing, and - who was to say? - maybe to write something that
would bring in many pieces of gold. Clear on his vision burned the
manuscripts of two essays he had just completed. He saw them under
the table on top of the heap of returned manuscripts for which he
had no stamps, and he saw their titles, just as he had typed them -
"The High Priests of Mystery," and "The Cradle of Beauty." He had
never submitted them anywhere. They were as good as anything he
had done in that line. If only he had stamps for them! Then the
certitude of his ultimate success rose up in him, an able ally of
hunger, and with a quick movement he slipped the coin into his
"I'll pay you back, Gertrude, a hundred times over," he gulped out,
his throat painfully contracted and in his eyes a swift hint of
"Mark my words!" he cried with abrupt positiveness. "Before the
year is out I'll put an even hundred of those little yellow-boys
into your hand. I don't ask you to believe me. All you have to do
is wait and see."
Nor did she believe. Her incredulity made her uncomfortable, and
failing of other expedient, she said:-
"I know you're hungry, Mart. It's sticking out all over you. Come
in to meals any time. I'll send one of the children to tell you
when Mr. Higginbotham ain't to be there. An' Mart - "
He waited, though he knew in his secret heart what she was about to
say, so visible was her thought process to him.
"Don't you think it's about time you got a job?"
"You don't think I'll win out?" he asked.
She shook her head.
"Nobody has faith in me, Gertrude, except myself." His voice was
passionately rebellious. "I've done good work already, plenty of
it, and sooner or later it will sell."
"How do you know it is good?"
"Because - " He faltered as the whole vast field of literature and
the history of literature stirred in his brain and pointed the
futility of his attempting to convey to her the reasons for his
faith. "Well, because it's better than ninety-nine per cent of
what is published in the magazines."
"I wish't you'd listen to reason," she answered feebly, but with
unwavering belief in the correctness of her diagnosis of what was
ailing him. "I wish't you'd listen to reason," she repeated, "an'
come to dinner to-morrow."
After Martin had helped her on the car, he hurried to the post-
office and invested three of the five dollars in stamps; and when,
later in the day, on the way to the Morse home, he stopped in at
the post-office to weigh a large number of long, bulky envelopes,
he affixed to them all the stamps save three of the two-cent
It proved a momentous night for Martin, for after dinner he met
Russ Brissenden. How he chanced to come there, whose friend he was
or what acquaintance brought him, Martin did not know. Nor had he
the curiosity to inquire about him of Ruth. In short, Brissenden
struck Martin as anaemic and feather-brained, and was promptly
dismissed from his mind. An hour later he decided that Brissenden
was a boor as well, what of the way he prowled about from one room
to another, staring at the pictures or poking his nose into books
and magazines he picked up from the table or drew from the shelves.
Though a stranger in the house he finally isolated himself in the
midst of the company, huddling into a capacious Morris chair and
reading steadily from a thin volume he had drawn from his pocket.
As he read, he abstractedly ran his fingers, with a caressing
movement, through his hair. Martin noticed him no more that
evening, except once when he observed him chaffing with great
apparent success with several of the young women.
It chanced that when Martin was leaving, he overtook Brissenden
already half down the walk to the street.
"Hello, is that you?" Martin said.
The other replied with an ungracious grunt, but swung alongside.
Martin made no further attempt at conversation, and for several
blocks unbroken silence lay upon them.
"Pompous old ass!"
The suddenness and the virulence of the exclamation startled
Martin. He felt amused, and at the same time was aware of a
growing dislike for the other.
"What do you go to such a place for?" was abruptly flung at him
after another block of silence.
"Why do you?" Martin countered.
"Bless me, I don't know," came back. "At least this is my first
indiscretion. There are twenty-four hours in each day, and I must
spend them somehow. Come and have a drink."
"All right," Martin answered.
The next moment he was nonplussed by the readiness of his
acceptance. At home was several hours' hack-work waiting for him
before he went to bed, and after he went to bed there was a volume
of Weismann waiting for him, to say nothing of Herbert Spencer's
Autobiography, which was as replete for him with romance as any
thrilling novel. Why should he waste any time with this man he did
not like? was his thought. And yet, it was not so much the man nor
the drink as was it what was associated with the drink - the bright
lights, the mirrors and dazzling array of glasses, the warm and
glowing faces and the resonant hum of the voices of men. That was
it, it was the voices of men, optimistic men, men who breathed
success and spent their money for drinks like men. He was lonely,
that was what was the matter with him; that was why he had snapped
at the invitation as a bonita strikes at a white rag on a hook.
Not since with Joe, at Shelly Hot Springs, with the one exception
of the wine he took with the Portuguese grocer, had Martin had a
drink at a public bar. Mental exhaustion did not produce a craving
for liquor such as physical exhaustion did, and he had felt no need
for it. But just now he felt desire for the drink, or, rather, for
the atmosphere wherein drinks were dispensed and disposed of. Such
a place was the Grotto, where Brissenden and he lounged in
capacious leather chairs and drank Scotch and soda.
They talked. They talked about many things, and now Brissenden and
now Martin took turn in ordering Scotch and soda. Martin, who was
extremely strong-headed, marvelled at the other's capacity for
liquor, and ever and anon broke off to marvel at the other's
conversation. He was not long in assuming that Brissenden knew
everything, and in deciding that here was the second intellectual
man he had met. But he noted that Brissenden had what Professor
Caldwell lacked - namely, fire, the flashing insight and
perception, the flaming uncontrol of genius. Living language
flowed from him. His thin lips, like the dies of a machine,
stamped out phrases that cut and stung; or again, pursing
caressingly about the inchoate sound they articulated, the thin
lips shaped soft and velvety things, mellow phrases of glow and
glory, of haunting beauty, reverberant of the mystery and
inscrutableness of life; and yet again the thin lips were like a
bugle, from which rang the crash and tumult of cosmic strife,
phrases that sounded clear as silver, that were luminous as starry
spaces, that epitomized the final word of science and yet said
something more - the poet's word, the transcendental truth, elusive
and without words which could express, and which none the less
found expression in the subtle and all but ungraspable connotations
of common words. He, by some wonder of vision, saw beyond the
farthest outpost of empiricism, where was no language for
narration, and yet, by some golden miracle of speech, investing
known words with unknown significances, he conveyed to Martin's
consciousness messages that were incommunicable to ordinary souls.
Martin forgot his first impression of dislike. Here was the best
the books had to offer coming true. Here was an intelligence, a
living man for him to look up to. "I am down in the dirt at your
feet," Martin repeated to himself again and again.
"You've studied biology," he said aloud, in significant allusion.
To his surprise Brissenden shook his head.
"But you are stating truths that are substantiated only by
biology," Martin insisted, and was rewarded by a blank stare.
"Your conclusions are in line with the books which you must have
"I am glad to hear it," was the answer. "That my smattering of
knowledge should enable me to short-cut my way to truth is most
reassuring. As for myself, I never bother to find out if I am
right or not. It is all valueless anyway. Man can never know the
"You are a disciple of Spencer!" Martin cried triumphantly.
"I haven't read him since adolescence, and all I read then was his
"I wish I could gather knowledge as carelessly," Martin broke out
half an hour later. He had been closely analyzing Brissenden's
mental equipment. "You are a sheer dogmatist, and that's what
makes it so marvellous. You state dogmatically the latest facts
which science has been able to establish only by E POSTERIORI
reasoning. You jump at correct conclusions. You certainly short-
cut with a vengeance. You feel your way with the speed of light,
by some hyperrational process, to truth."
"Yes, that was what used to bother Father Joseph, and Brother
Dutton," Brissenden replied. "Oh, no," he added; "I am not
anything. It was a lucky trick of fate that sent me to a Catholic
college for my education. Where did you pick up what you know?"
And while Martin told him, he was busy studying Brissenden, ranging
from a long, lean, aristocratic face and drooping shoulders to the
overcoat on a neighboring chair, its pockets sagged and bulged by
the freightage of many books. Brissenden's face and long, slender
hands were browned by the sun - excessively browned, Martin
thought. This sunburn bothered Martin. It was patent that
Brissenden was no outdoor man. Then how had he been ravaged by the
sun? Something morbid and significant attached to that sunburn,
was Martin's thought as he returned to a study of the face, narrow,
with high cheek-bones and cavernous hollows, and graced with as
delicate and fine an aquiline nose as Martin had ever seen. There
was nothing remarkable about the size of the eyes. They were
neither large nor small, while their color was a nondescript brown;
but in them smouldered a fire, or, rather, lurked an expression
dual and strangely contradictory. Defiant, indomitable, even harsh
to excess, they at the same time aroused pity. Martin found
himself pitying him he knew not why, though he was soon to learn.
"Oh, I'm a lunger," Brissenden announced, offhand, a little later,
having already stated that he came from Arizona. "I've been down
there a couple of years living on the climate."
"Aren't you afraid to venture it up in this climate?"
There was no special emphasis of his repetition of Martin's word.
But Martin saw in that ascetic face the advertisement that there
was nothing of which it was afraid. The eyes had narrowed till
they were eagle-like, and Martin almost caught his breath as he
noted the eagle beak with its dilated nostrils, defiant, assertive,
aggressive. Magnificent, was what he commented to himself, his
blood thrilling at the sight. Aloud, he quoted:-
"'Under the bludgeoning of Chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.'"
"You like Henley," Brissenden said, his expression changing swiftly
to large graciousness and tenderness. "Of course, I couldn't have
expected anything else of you. Ah, Henley! A brave soul. He
stands out among contemporary rhymesters - magazine rhymesters - as
a gladiator stands out in the midst of a band of eunuchs."
"You don't like the magazines," Martin softly impeached.
"Do you?" was snarled back at him so savagely as to startle him.
"I - I write, or, rather, try to write, for the magazines," Martin
"That's better," was the mollified rejoinder. "You try to write,
but you don't succeed. I respect and admire your failure. I know
what you write. I can see it with half an eye, and there's one
ingredient in it that shuts it out of the magazines. It's guts,
and magazines have no use for that particular commodity. What they
want is wish-wash and slush, and God knows they get it, but not
"I'm not above hack-work," Martin contended.
"On the contrary - " Brissenden paused and ran an insolent eye
over Martin's objective poverty, passing from the well-worn tie and
the saw-edged collar to the shiny sleeves of the coat and on to the
slight fray of one cuff, winding up and dwelling upon Martin's
sunken cheeks. "On the contrary, hack-work is above you, so far
above you that you can never hope to rise to it. Why, man, I could
insult you by asking you to have something to eat."
Martin felt the heat in his face of the involuntary blood, and
Brissenden laughed triumphantly.
"A full man is not insulted by such an invitation," he concluded.
"You are a devil," Martin cried irritably.
"Anyway, I didn't ask you."
"You didn't dare."
"Oh, I don't know about that. I invite you now."
Brissenden half rose from his chair as he spoke, as if with the
intention of departing to the restaurant forthwith.
Martin's fists were tight-clenched, and his blood was drumming in
"Bosco! He eats 'em alive! Eats 'em alive!" Brissenden
exclaimed, imitating the SPIELER of a locally famous snake-eater.
"I could certainly eat you alive," Martin said, in turn running
insolent eyes over the other's disease-ravaged frame.
"Only I'm not worthy of it?"
"On the contrary," Martin considered, "because the incident is not
worthy." He broke into a laugh, hearty and wholesome. "I confess
you made a fool of me, Brissenden. That I am hungry and you are
aware of it are only ordinary phenomena, and there's no disgrace.
You see, I laugh at the conventional little moralities of the herd;
then you drift by, say a sharp, true word, and immediately I am the
slave of the same little moralities."
"You were insulted," Brissenden affirmed.
"I certainly was, a moment ago. The prejudice of early youth, you
know. I learned such things then, and they cheapen what I have
since learned. They are the skeletons in my particular closet."
"But you've got the door shut on them now?"
"I certainly have."
"Then let's go and get something to eat."
"I'll go you," Martin answered, attempting to pay for the current
Scotch and soda with the last change from his two dollars and
seeing the waiter bullied by Brissenden into putting that change
back on the table.
Martin pocketed it with a grimace, and felt for a moment the kindly
weight of Brissenden's hand upon his shoulder.
Promptly, the next afternoon, Maria was excited by Martin's second
visitor. But she did not lose her head this time, for she seated
Brissenden in her parlor's grandeur of respectability.
"Hope you don't mind my coming?" Brissenden began.
"No, no, not at all," Martin answered, shaking hands and waving him
to the solitary chair, himself taking to the bed. "But how did you
know where I lived?"
"Called up the Morses. Miss Morse answered the 'phone. And here I
am." He tugged at his coat pocket and flung a thin volume on the
table. "There's a book, by a poet. Read it and keep it." And
then, in reply to Martin's protest: "What have I to do with books?
I had another hemorrhage this morning. Got any whiskey? No, of
course not. Wait a minute."
He was off and away. Martin watched his long figure go down the
outside steps, and, on turning to close the gate, noted with a pang
the shoulders, which had once been broad, drawn in now over, the
collapsed ruin of the chest. Martin got two tumblers, and fell to
reading the book of verse, Henry Vaughn Marlow's latest collection.
"No Scotch," Brissenden announced on his return. "The beggar sells
nothing but American whiskey. But here's a quart of it."
"I'll send one of the youngsters for lemons, and we'll make a
toddy," Martin offered.
"I wonder what a book like that will earn Marlow?" he went on,
holding up the volume in question.
"Possibly fifty dollars," came the answer. "Though he's lucky if
he pulls even on it, or if he can inveigle a publisher to risk
bringing it out."
"Then one can't make a living out of poetry?"
Martin's tone and face alike showed his dejection.
"Certainly not. What fool expects to? Out of rhyming, yes.
There's Bruce, and Virginia Spring, and Sedgwick. They do very
nicely. But poetry - do you know how Vaughn Marlow makes his
living? - teaching in a boys' cramming-joint down in Pennsylvania,
and of all private little hells such a billet is the limit. I
wouldn't trade places with him if he had fifty years of life before
him. And yet his work stands out from the ruck of the contemporary
versifiers as a balas ruby among carrots. And the reviews he gets!
Damn them, all of them, the crass manikins!"
"Too much is written by the men who can't write about the men who
do write," Martin concurred. "Why, I was appalled at the
quantities of rubbish written about Stevenson and his work."
"Ghouls and harpies!" Brissenden snapped out with clicking teeth.
"Yes, I know the spawn - complacently pecking at him for his Father
Damien letter, analyzing him, weighing him - "
"Measuring him by the yardstick of their own miserable egos,"
Martin broke in.
"Yes, that's it, a good phrase, - mouthing and besliming the True,
and Beautiful, and Good, and finally patting him on the back and
saying, 'Good dog, Fido.' Faugh! 'The little chattering daws of
men,' Richard Realf called them the night he died."
"Pecking at star-dust," Martin took up the strain warmly; "at the
meteoric flight of the master-men. I once wrote a squib on them -
the critics, or the reviewers, rather."
"Let's see it," Brissenden begged eagerly.
So Martin unearthed a carbon copy of "Star-dust," and during the
reading of it Brissenden chuckled, rubbed his hands, and forgot to
sip his toddy.
"Strikes me you're a bit of star-dust yourself, flung into a world
of cowled gnomes who cannot see," was his comment at the end of it.
"Of course it was snapped up by the first magazine?"
Martin ran over the pages of his manuscript book. "It has been
refused by twenty-seven of them."
Brissenden essayed a long and hearty laugh, but broke down in a fit
"Say, you needn't tell me you haven't tackled poetry," he gasped.
"Let me see some of it."
"Don't read it now," Martin pleaded. "I want to talk with you.
I'll make up a bundle and you can take it home."
Brissenden departed with the "Love-cycle," and "The Peri and the
Pearl," returning next day to greet Martin with:-
"I want more."
Not only did he assure Martin that he was a poet, but Martin
learned that Brissenden also was one. He was swept off his feet by
the other's work, and astounded that no attempt had been made to
"A plague on all their houses!" was Brissenden's answer to Martin's
volunteering to market his work for him. "Love Beauty for its own
sake," was his counsel, "and leave the magazines alone. Back to
your ships and your sea - that's my advice to you, Martin Eden.
What do you want in these sick and rotten cities of men? You are
cutting your throat every day you waste in them trying to
prostitute beauty to the needs of magazinedom. What was it you
quoted me the other day? - Oh, yes, 'Man, the latest of the
ephemera.' Well, what do you, the latest of the ephemera, want
with fame? If you got it, it would be poison to you. You are too
simple, took elemental, and too rational, by my faith, to prosper
on such pap. I hope you never do sell a line to the magazines.
Beauty is the only master to serve. Serve her and damn the
multitude! Success! What in hell's success if it isn't right
there in your Stevenson sonnet, which outranks Henley's
'Apparition,' in that 'Love-cycle,' in those sea-poems?
"It is not in what you succeed in doing that you get your joy, but
in the doing of it. You can't tell me. I know it. You know it.
Beauty hurts you. It is an everlasting pain in you, a wound that
does not heal, a knife of flame. Why should you palter with
magazines? Let beauty be your end. Why should you mint beauty
into gold? Anyway, you can't; so there's no use in my getting
excited over it. You can read the magazines for a thousand years
and you won't find the value of one line of Keats. Leave fame and
coin alone, sign away on a ship to-morrow, and go back to your
"Not for fame, but for love," Martin laughed. "Love seems to have
no place in your Cosmos; in mine, Beauty is the handmaiden of
Brissenden looked at him pityingly and admiringly. "You are so
young, Martin boy, so young. You will flutter high, but your wings
are of the finest gauze, dusted with the fairest pigments. Do not
scorch them. But of course you have scorched them already. It
required some glorified petticoat to account for that 'Love-cycle,'
and that's the shame of it."
"It glorifies love as well as the petticoat," Martin laughed.
"The philosophy of madness," was the retort. "So have I assured
myself when wandering in hasheesh dreams. But beware. These
bourgeois cities will kill you. Look at that den of traitors where
I met you. Dry rot is no name for it. One can't keep his sanity
in such an atmosphere. It's degrading. There's not one of them
who is not degrading, man and woman, all of them animated stomachs
guided by the high intellectual and artistic impulses of clams - "
He broke off suddenly and regarded Martin. Then, with a flash of
divination, he saw the situation. The expression on his face
turned to wondering horror.
"And you wrote that tremendous 'Love-cycle' to her - that pale,
shrivelled, female thing!"
The next instant Martin's right hand had shot to a throttling
clutch on his throat, and he was being shaken till his teeth
rattled. But Martin, looking into his eyes, saw no fear there, -
naught but a curious and mocking devil. Martin remembered himself,
and flung Brissenden, by the neck, sidelong upon the bed, at the
same moment releasing his hold.
Brissenden panted and gasped painfully for a moment, then began to
"You had made me eternally your debtor had you shaken out the
flame," he said.
"My nerves are on a hair-trigger these days," Martin apologized.
"Hope I didn't hurt you. Here, let me mix a fresh toddy."
"Ah, you young Greek!" Brissenden went on. "I wonder if you take
just pride in that body of yours. You are devilish strong. You
are a young panther, a lion cub. Well, well, it is you who must
pay for that strength."
"What do you mean?" Martin asked curiously, passing aim a glass.
"Here, down this and be good."
"Because - " Brissenden sipped his toddy and smiled appreciation of
it. "Because of the women. They will worry you until you die, as
they have already worried you, or else I was born yesterday. Now
there's no use in your choking me; I'm going to have my say. This
is undoubtedly your calf love; but for Beauty's sake show better
taste next time. What under heaven do you want with a daughter of
the bourgeoisie? Leave them alone. Pick out some great, wanton
flame of a woman, who laughs at life and jeers at death and loves
one while she may. There are such women, and they will love you
just as readily as any pusillanimous product of bourgeois sheltered
"Pusillanimous?" Martin protested.
"Just so, pusillanimous; prattling out little moralities that have
been prattled into them, and afraid to live life. They will love
you, Martin, but they will love their little moralities more. What
you want is the magnificent abandon of life, the great free souls,
the blazing butterflies and not the little gray moths. Oh, you
will grow tired of them, too, of all the female things, if you are
unlucky enough to live. But you won't live. You won't go back to
your ships and sea; therefore, you'll hang around these pest-holes
of cities until your bones are rotten, and then you'll die."
"You can lecture me, but you can't make me talk back," Martin said.
"After all, you have but the wisdom of your temperament, and the
wisdom of my temperament is just as unimpeachable as yours."
They disagreed about love, and the magazines, and many things, but
they liked each other, and on Martin's part it was no less than a
profound liking. Day after day they were together, if for no more
than the hour Brissenden spent in Martin's stuffy room. Brissenden
never arrived without his quart of whiskey, and when they dined
together down-town, he drank Scotch and soda throughout the meal.
He invariably paid the way for both, and it was through him that
Martin learned the refinements of food, drank his first champagne,
and made acquaintance with Rhenish wines.
But Brissenden was always an enigma. With the face of an ascetic,
he was, in all the failing blood of him, a frank voluptuary. He
was unafraid to die, bitter and cynical of all the ways of living;
and yet, dying, he loved life, to the last atom of it. He was
possessed by a madness to live, to thrill, "to squirm my little
space in the cosmic dust whence I came," as he phrased it once
himself. He had tampered with drugs and done many strange things
in quest of new thrills, new sensations. As he told Martin, he had
once gone three days without water, had done so voluntarily, in
order to experience the exquisite delight of such a thirst
assuaged. Who or what he was, Martin never learned. He was a man
without a past, whose future was the imminent grave and whose
present was a bitter fever of living.
Martin was steadily losing his battle. Economize as he would, the
earnings from hack-work did not balance expenses. Thanksgiving
found him with his black suit in pawn and unable to accept the
Morses' invitation to dinner. Ruth was not made happy by his
reason for not coming, and the corresponding effect on him was one
of desperation. He told her that he would come, after all; that he
would go over to San Francisco, to the TRANSCONTINENTAL office,
collect the five dollars due him, and with it redeem his suit of
In the morning he borrowed ten cents from Maria. He would have
borrowed it, by preference, from Brissenden, but that erratic
individual had disappeared. Two weeks had passed since Martin had
seen him, and he vainly cudgelled his brains for some cause of
offence. The ten cents carried Martin across the ferry to San
Francisco, and as he walked up Market Street he speculated upon his
predicament in case he failed to collect the money. There would
then be no way for him to return to Oakland, and he knew no one in
San Francisco from whom to borrow another ten cents.
The door to the TRANSCONTINENTAL office was ajar, and Martin, in
the act of opening it, was brought to a sudden pause by a loud
voice from within, which exclaimed:- "But that is not the question,
Mr. Ford." (Ford, Martin knew, from his correspondence, to be the
editor's name.) "The question is, are you prepared to pay? - cash,
and cash down, I mean? I am not interested in the prospects of the
TRANSCONTINENTAL and what you expect to make it next year. What I
want is to be paid for what I do. And I tell you, right now, the
Christmas TRANSCONTINENTAL don't go to press till I have the money
in my hand. Good day. When you get the money, come and see me."
The door jerked open, and the man flung past Martin, with an angry
countenance and went down the corridor, muttering curses and
clenching his fists. Martin decided not to enter immediately, and
lingered in the hallways for a quarter of an hour. Then he shoved
the door open and walked in. It was a new experience, the first
time he had been inside an editorial office. Cards evidently were
not necessary in that office, for the boy carried word to an inner
room that there was a man who wanted to see Mr. Ford. Returning,
the boy beckoned him from halfway across the room and led him to
the private office, the editorial sanctum. Martin's first
impression was of the disorder and cluttered confusion of the room.
Next he noticed a bewhiskered, youthful-looking man, sitting at a
roll-top desk, who regarded him curiously. Martin marvelled at the
calm repose of his face. It was evident that the squabble with the
printer had not affected his equanimity.
"I - I am Martin Eden," Martin began the conversation. ("And I
want my five dollars," was what he would have liked to say.)
But this was his first editor, and under the circumstances he did
not desire to scare him too abruptly. To his surprise, Mr. Ford
leaped into the air with a "You don't say so!" and the next moment,
with both hands, was shaking Martin's hand effusively.
"Can't say how glad I am to see you, Mr. Eden. Often wondered what
you were like."
Here he held Martin off at arm's length and ran his beaming eyes
over Martin's second-best suit, which was also his worst suit, and
which was ragged and past repair, though the trousers showed the
careful crease he had put in with Maria's flat-irons.
"I confess, though, I conceived you to be a much older man than you
are. Your story, you know, showed such breadth, and vigor, such
maturity and depth of thought. A masterpiece, that story - I knew
it when I had read the first half-dozen lines. Let me tell you how
I first read it. But no; first let me introduce you to the staff."
Still talking, Mr. Ford led him into the general office, where he
introduced him to the associate editor, Mr. White, a slender, frail
little man whose hand seemed strangely cold, as if he were
suffering from a chill, and whose whiskers were sparse and silky.
"And Mr. Ends, Mr. Eden. Mr. Ends is our business manager, you
Martin found himself shaking hands with a cranky-eyed, bald-headed
man, whose face looked youthful enough from what little could be
seen of it, for most of it was covered by a snow-white beard,
carefully trimmed - by his wife, who did it on Sundays, at which
times she also shaved the back of his neck.
The three men surrounded Martin, all talking admiringly and at
once, until it seemed to him that they were talking against time
for a wager.
"We often wondered why you didn't call," Mr. White was saying.
"I didn't have the carfare, and I live across the Bay," Martin
answered bluntly, with the idea of showing them his imperative need
for the money.
Surely, he thought to himself, my glad rags in themselves are
eloquent advertisement of my need. Time and again, whenever
opportunity offered, he hinted about the purpose of his business.
But his admirers' ears were deaf. They sang his praises, told him
what they had thought of his story at first sight, what they
subsequently thought, what their wives and families thought; but
not one hint did they breathe of intention to pay him for it.
"Did I tell you how I first read your story?" Mr. Ford said. "Of
course I didn't. I was coming west from New York, and when the
train stopped at Ogden, the train-boy on the new run brought aboard
the current number of the TRANSCONTINENTAL."
My God! Martin thought; you can travel in a Pullman while I starve
for the paltry five dollars you owe me. A wave of anger rushed
over him. The wrong done him by the TRANSCONTINENTAL loomed
colossal, for strong upon him were all the dreary months of vain
yearning, of hunger and privation, and his present hunger awoke and
gnawed at him, reminding him that he had eaten nothing since the
day before, and little enough then. For the moment he saw red.
These creatures were not even robbers. They were sneak-thieves.
By lies and broken promises they had tricked him out of his story.
Well, he would show them. And a great resolve surged into his will
to the effect that he would not leave the office until he got his
money. He remembered, if he did not get it, that there was no way
for him to go back to Oakland. He controlled himself with an
effort, but not before the wolfish expression of his face had awed
and perturbed them.
They became more voluble than ever. Mr. Ford started anew to tell
how he had first read "The Ring of Bells," and Mr. Ends at the same
time was striving to repeat his niece's appreciation of "The Ring
of Bells," said niece being a school-teacher in Alameda.
"I'll tell you what I came for," Martin said finally. "To be paid
for that story all of you like so well. Five dollars, I believe,
is what you promised me would be paid on publication."
Mr. Ford, with an expression on his mobile features of mediate and
happy acquiescence, started to reach for his pocket, then turned
suddenly to Mr. Ends, and said that he had left his money home.
That Mr. Ends resented this, was patent; and Martin saw the twitch
of his arm as if to protect his trousers pocket. Martin knew that
the money was there.
"I am sorry," said Mr. Ends, "but I paid the printer not an hour
ago, and he took my ready change. It was careless of me to be so
short; but the bill was not yet due, and the printer's request, as
a favor, to make an immediate advance, was quite unexpected."
Both men looked expectantly at Mr. White, but that gentleman
laughed and shrugged his shoulders. His conscience was clean at
any rate. He had come into the TRANSCONTINENTAL to learn magazine-
literature, instead of which he had principally learned finance.
The TRANSCONTINENTAL owed him four months' salary, and he knew that
the printer must be appeased before the associate editor.
"It's rather absurd, Mr. Eden, to have caught us in this shape,"
Mr. Ford preambled airily. "All carelessness, I assure you. But
I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll mail you a check the first
thing in the morning. You have Mr. Eden's address, haven't you,
Yes, Mr. Ends had the address, and the check would be mailed the
first thing in the morning. Martin's knowledge of banks and checks
was hazy, but he could see no reason why they should not give him
the check on this day just as well as on the next.
"Then it is understood, Mr. Eden, that we'll mail you the check to-
morrow?" Mr. Ford said.
"I need the money to-day," Martin answered stolidly.
"The unfortunate circumstances - if you had chanced here any other
day," Mr. Ford began suavely, only to be interrupted by Mr. Ends,
whose cranky eyes justified themselves in his shortness of temper.
"Mr. Ford has already explained the situation," he said with
asperity. "And so have I. The check will be mailed - "
"I also have explained," Martin broke in, "and I have explained
that I want the money to-day."
He had felt his pulse quicken a trifle at the business manager's
brusqueness, and upon him he kept an alert eye, for it was in that
gentleman's trousers pocket that he divined the TRANSCONTINENTAL'S
ready cash was reposing.
"It is too bad - " Mr. Ford began.
But at that moment, with an impatient movement, Mr. Ends turned as
if about to leave the room. At the same instant Martin sprang for
him, clutching him by the throat with one hand in such fashion that
Mr. Ends' snow-white beard, still maintaining its immaculate
trimness, pointed ceilingward at an angle of forty-five degrees.
To the horror of Mr. White and Mr. Ford, they saw their business
manager shaken like an Astrakhan rug.
"Dig up, you venerable discourager of rising young talent!" Martin
exhorted. "Dig up, or I'll shake it out of you, even if it's all
in nickels." Then, to the two affrighted onlookers: "Keep away!
If you interfere, somebody's liable to get hurt."
Mr. Ends was choking, and it was not until the grip on his throat
was eased that he was able to signify his acquiescence in the
digging-up programme. All together, after repeated digs, its
trousers pocket yielded four dollars and fifteen cents.
"Inside out with it," Martin commanded.
An additional ten cents fell out. Martin counted the result of his
raid a second time to make sure.
"You next!" he shouted at Mr. Ford. "I want seventy-five cents
Mr. Ford did not wait, but ransacked his pockets, with the result
of sixty cents.
"Sure that is all?" Martin demanded menacingly, possessing himself
of it. "What have you got in your vest pockets?"
In token of his good faith, Mr. Ford turned two of his pockets
inside out. A strip of cardboard fell to the floor from one of
them. He recovered it and was in the act of returning it, when
"What's that? - A ferry ticket? Here, give it to me. It's worth
ten cents. I'll credit you with it. I've now got four dollars and
ninety-five cents, including the ticket. Five cents is still due
He looked fiercely at Mr. White, and found that fragile creature in
the act of handing him a nickel.
"Thank you," Martin said, addressing them collectively. "I wish
you a good day."
"Robber!" Mr. Ends snarled after him.
"Sneak-thief!" Martin retorted, slamming the door as he passed out.
Martin was elated - so elated that when he recollected that THE
HORNET owed him fifteen dollars for "The Peri and the Pearl," he
decided forthwith to go and collect it. But THE HORNET was run by
a set of clean-shaven, strapping young men, frank buccaneers who
robbed everything and everybody, not excepting one another. After
some breakage of the office furniture, the editor (an ex-college
athlete), ably assisted by the business manager, an advertising
agent, and the porter, succeeded in removing Martin from the office
and in accelerating, by initial impulse, his descent of the first
flight of stairs.
"Come again, Mr. Eden; glad to see you any time," they laughed down
at him from the landing above.
Martin grinned as he picked himself up.
"Phew!" he murmured back. "The TRANSCONTINENTAL crowd were nanny-
goats, but you fellows are a lot of prize-fighters."
More laughter greeted this.
"I must say, Mr. Eden," the editor of THE HORNET called down, "that
for a poet you can go some yourself. Where did you learn that
right cross - if I may ask?"
"Where you learned that half-Nelson," Martin answered. "Anyway,
you're going to have a black eye."
"I hope your neck doesn't stiffen up," the editor wished
solicitously: "What do you say we all go out and have a drink on
it - not the neck, of course, but the little rough-house?"
"I'll go you if I lose," Martin accepted.
And robbers and robbed drank together, amicably agreeing that the
battle was to the strong, and that the fifteen dollars for "The
Peri and the Pearl" belonged by right to THE HORNET'S editorial
Arthur remained at the gate while Ruth climbed Maria's front steps.
She heard the rapid click of the type-writer, and when Martin let
her in, found him on the last page of a manuscript. She had come
to make certain whether or not he would be at their table for
Thanksgiving dinner; but before she could broach the subject Martin
plunged into the one with which he was full.
"Here, let me read you this," he cried, separating the carbon
copies and running the pages of manuscript into shape. "It's my
latest, and different from anything I've done. It is so altogether
different that I am almost afraid of it, and yet I've a sneaking
idea it is good. You be judge. It's an Hawaiian story. I've
called it 'Wiki-wiki.'"
His face was bright with the creative glow, though she shivered in
the cold room and had been struck by the coldness of his hands at
greeting. She listened closely while he read, and though he from
time to time had seen only disapprobation in her face, at the close
"Frankly, what do you think of it?"
"I - I don't know," she, answered. "Will it - do you think it will
"I'm afraid not," was the confession. "It's too strong for the
magazines. But it's true, on my word it's true."
"But why do you persist in writing such things when you know they
won't sell?" she went on inexorably. "The reason for your writing
is to make a living, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's right; but the miserable story got away with me. I
couldn't help writing it. It demanded to be written."
"But that character, that Wiki-Wiki, why do you make him talk so
roughly? Surely it will offend your readers, and surely that is
why the editors are justified in refusing your work."
"Because the real Wiki-Wiki would have talked that way."
"But it is not good taste."
"It is life," he replied bluntly. "It is real. It is true. And I
must write life as I see it."
She made no answer, and for an awkward moment they sat silent. It
was because he loved her that he did not quite understand her, and
she could not understand him because he was so large that he bulked
beyond her horizon
"Well, I've collected from the TRANSCONTINENTAL," he said in an
effort to shift the conversation to a more comfortable subject.
The picture of the bewhiskered trio, as he had last seen them,
mulcted of four dollars and ninety cents and a ferry ticket, made
"Then you'll come!" she cried joyously. "That was what I came to
"Come?" he muttered absently. "Where?"
"Why, to dinner to-morrow. You know you said you'd recover your
suit if you got that money."
"I forgot all about it," he said humbly. "You see, this morning
the poundman got Maria's two cows and the baby calf, and - well, it
happened that Maria didn't have any money, and so I had to recover
her cows for her. That's where the TRANSCONTINENTAL fiver went -
'The Ring of Bells' went into the poundman's pocket."
"Then you won't come?"
He looked down at his clothing.
Tears of disappointment and reproach glistened in her blue eyes,
but she said nothing.
"Next Thanksgiving you'll have dinner with me in Delmonico's," he
said cheerily; "or in London, or Paris, or anywhere you wish. I
"I saw in the paper a few days ago," she announced abruptly, "that
there had been several local appointments to the Railway Mail. You
passed first, didn't you?"
He was compelled to admit that the call had come for him, but that
he had declined it. "I was so sure - I am so sure - of myself," he
concluded. "A year from now I'll be earning more than a dozen men
in the Railway Mail. You wait and see."
"Oh," was all she said, when he finished. She stood up, pulling at
her gloves. "I must go, Martin. Arthur is waiting for me."
He took her in his arms and kissed her, but she proved a passive
sweetheart. There was no tenseness in her body, her arms did not
go around him, and her lips met his without their wonted pressure.
She was angry with him, he concluded, as he returned from the gate.
But why? It was unfortunate that the poundman had gobbled Maria's
cows. But it was only a stroke of fate. Nobody could be blamed
for it. Nor did it enter his head that he could have done aught
otherwise than what he had done. Well, yes, he was to blame a
little, was his next thought, for having refused the call to the
Railway Mail. And she had not liked "Wiki-Wiki."
He turned at the head of the steps to meet the letter-carrier on
his afternoon round. The ever recurrent fever of expectancy
assailed Martin as he took the bundle of long envelopes. One was
not long. It was short and thin, and outside was printed the
address of THE NEW YORK OUTVIEW. He paused in the act of tearing
the envelope open. It could not be an acceptance. He had no
manuscripts with that publication. Perhaps - his heart almost
stood still at the - wild thought - perhaps they were ordering an
article from him; but the next instant he dismissed the surmise as
It was a short, formal letter, signed by the office editor, merely
informing him that an anonymous letter which they had received was
enclosed, and that he could rest assured the OUTVIEW'S staff never
under any circumstances gave consideration to anonymous
The enclosed letter Martin found to be crudely printed by hand. It
was a hotchpotch of illiterate abuse of Martin, and of assertion
that the "so-called Martin Eden" who was selling stories to
magazines was no writer at all, and that in reality he was stealing
stories from old magazines, typing them, and sending them out as
his own. The envelope was postmarked "San Leandro." Martin did
not require a second thought to discover the author.
Higginbotham's grammar, Higginbotham's colloquialisms,
Higginbotham's mental quirks and processes, were apparent
throughout. Martin saw in every line, not the fine Italian hand,
but the coarse grocer's fist, of his brother-in-law.
But why? he vainly questioned. What injury had he done Bernard
Higginbotham? The thing was so unreasonable, so wanton. There was
no explaining it. In the course of the week a dozen similar
letters were forwarded to Martin by the editors of various Eastern
magazines. The editors were behaving handsomely, Martin concluded.
He was wholly unknown to them, yet some of them had even been
sympathetic. It was evident that they detested anonymity. He saw
that the malicious attempt to hurt him had failed. In fact, if
anything came of it, it was bound to be good, for at least his name
had been called to the attention of a number of editors. Sometime,
perhaps, reading a submitted manuscript of his, they might remember
him as the fellow about whom they had received an anonymous letter.
And who was to say that such a remembrance might not sway the
balance of their judgment just a trifle in his favor?
It was about this time that Martin took a great slump in Maria's
estimation. He found her in the kitchen one morning groaning with
pain, tears of weakness running down her cheeks, vainly endeavoring
to put through a large ironing. He promptly diagnosed her
affliction as La Grippe, dosed her with hot whiskey (the remnants
in the bottles for which Brissenden was responsible), and ordered
her to bed. But Maria was refractory. The ironing had to be done,
she protested, and delivered that night, or else there would be no
food on the morrow for the seven small and hungry Silvas.
To her astonishment (and it was something that she never ceased
from relating to her dying day), she saw Martin Eden seize an iron
from the stove and throw a fancy shirt-waist on the ironing-board.
It was Kate Flanagan's best Sunday waist, than whom there was no
more exacting and fastidiously dressed woman in Maria's world.
Also, Miss Flanagan had sent special instruction that said waist
must be delivered by that night. As every one knew, she was
keeping company with John Collins, the blacksmith, and, as Maria
knew privily, Miss Flanagan and Mr. Collins were going next day to
Golden Gate Park. Vain was Maria's attempt to rescue the garment.
Martin guided her tottering footsteps to a chair, from where she
watched him with bulging eyes. In a quarter of the time it would
have taken her she saw the shirt-waist safely ironed, and ironed as
well as she could have done it, as Martin made her grant.
"I could work faster," he explained, "if your irons were only
To her, the irons he swung were much hotter than she ever dared to
"Your sprinkling is all wrong," he complained next. "Here, let me
teach you how to sprinkle. Pressure is what's wanted. Sprinkle
under pressure if you want to iron fast."
He procured a packing-case from the woodpile in the cellar, fitted
a cover to it, and raided the scrap-iron the Silva tribe was
collecting for the junkman. With fresh-sprinkled garments in the
box, covered with the board and pressed by the iron, the device was
complete and in operation.
"Now you watch me, Maria," he said, stripping off to his undershirt
and gripping an iron that was what he called "really hot."
"An' when he feenish da iron' he washa da wools," as she described
it afterward. "He say, 'Maria, you are da greata fool. I showa
you how to washa da wools,' an' he shows me, too. Ten minutes he
maka da machine - one barrel, one wheel-hub, two poles, justa like
Martin had learned the contrivance from Joe at the Shelly Hot
Springs. The old wheel-hub, fixed on the end of the upright pole,
constituted the plunger. Making this, in turn, fast to the spring-
pole attached to the kitchen rafters, so that the hub played upon
the woollens in the barrel, he was able, with one hand, thoroughly
to pound them.
"No more Maria washa da wools," her story always ended. "I maka da
kids worka da pole an' da hub an' da barrel. Him da smarta man,
Nevertheless, by his masterly operation and improvement of her
kitchen-laundry he fell an immense distance in her regard. The
glamour of romance with which her imagination had invested him
faded away in the cold light of fact that he was an ex-laundryman.
All his books, and his grand friends who visited him in carriages
or with countless bottles of whiskey, went for naught. He was,
after all, a mere workingman, a member of her own class and caste.
He was more human and approachable, but, he was no longer mystery.
Martin's alienation from his family continued. Following upon Mr.
Higginbotham's unprovoked attack, Mr. Hermann von Schmidt showed
his hand. The fortunate sale of several storiettes, some humorous
verse, and a few jokes gave Martin a temporary splurge of
prosperity. Not only did he partially pay up his bills, but he had
sufficient balance left to redeem his black suit and wheel. The
latter, by virtue of a twisted crank-hanger, required repairing,
and, as a matter of friendliness with his future brother-in-law, he
sent it to Von Schmidt's shop.
The afternoon of the same day Martin was pleased by the wheel being
delivered by a small boy. Von Schmidt was also inclined to be
friendly, was Martin's conclusion from this unusual favor.
Repaired wheels usually had to be called for. But when he examined
the wheel, he discovered no repairs had been made. A little later
in the day he telephoned his sister's betrothed, and learned that
that person didn't want anything to do with him in "any shape,
manner, or form."
"Hermann von Schmidt," Martin answered cheerfully, "I've a good
mind to come over and punch that Dutch nose of yours."
"You come to my shop," came the reply, "an' I'll send for the
police. An' I'll put you through, too. Oh, I know you, but you
can't make no rough-house with me. I don't want nothin' to do with
the likes of you. You're a loafer, that's what, an' I ain't
asleep. You ain't goin' to do no spongin' off me just because I'm
marryin' your sister. Why don't you go to work an' earn an honest
livin', eh? Answer me that."
Martin's philosophy asserted itself, dissipating his anger, and he
hung up the receiver with a long whistle of incredulous amusement.
But after the amusement came the reaction, and he was oppressed by
his loneliness. Nobody understood him, nobody seemed to have any
use for him, except Brissenden, and Brissenden had disappeared, God
alone knew where.
Twilight was falling as Martin left the fruit store and turned
homeward, his marketing on his arm. At the corner an electric car
had stopped, and at sight of a lean, familiar figure alighting, his
heart leapt with joy. It was Brissenden, and in the fleeting
glimpse, ere the car started up, Martin noted the overcoat pockets,
one bulging with books, the other bulging with a quart bottle of
Brissenden gave no explanation of his long absence, nor did Martin
pry into it. He was content to see his friend's cadaverous face
opposite him through the steam rising from a tumbler of toddy.
"I, too, have not been idle," Brissenden proclaimed, after hearing
Martin's account of the work he had accomplished.
He pulled a manuscript from his inside coat pocket and passed it to
Martin, who looked at the title and glanced up curiously.
"Yes, that's it," Brissenden laughed. "Pretty good title, eh?
'Ephemera' - it is the one word. And you're responsible for it,
what of your MAN, who is always the erected, the vitalized
inorganic, the latest of the ephemera, the creature of temperature
strutting his little space on the thermometer. It got into my head
and I had to write it to get rid of it. Tell me what you think of
Martin's face, flushed at first, paled as he read on. It was
perfect art. Form triumphed over substance, if triumph it could be
called where the last conceivable atom of substance had found
expression in so perfect construction as to make Martin's head swim
with delight, to put passionate tears into his eyes, and to send
chills creeping up and down his back. It was a long poem of six or
seven hundred lines, and it was a fantastic, amazing, unearthly
thing. It was terrific, impossible; and yet there it was, scrawled
in black ink across the sheets of paper. It dealt with man and his
soul-gropings in their ultimate terms, plumbing the abysses of
space for the testimony of remotest suns and rainbow spectrums. It
was a mad orgy of imagination, wassailing in the skull of a dying
man who half sobbed under his breath and was quick with the wild
flutter of fading heart-beats. The poem swung in majestic rhythm
to the cool tumult of interstellar conflict, to the onset of starry
hosts, to the impact of cold suns and the flaming up of nebular in
the darkened void; and through it all, unceasing and faint, like a
silver shuttle, ran the frail, piping voice of man, a querulous
chirp amid the screaming of planets and the crash of systems.
"There is nothing like it in literature," Martin said, when at last
he was able to speak. "It's wonderful! - wonderful! It has gone
to my head. I am drunken with it. That great, infinitesimal
question - I can't shake it out of my thoughts. That questing,
eternal, ever recurring, thin little wailing voice of man is still
ringing in my ears. It is like the dead-march of a gnat amid the
trumpeting of elephants and the roaring of lions. It is insatiable
with microscopic desire. I now I'm making a fool of myself, but
the thing has obsessed me. You are - I don't know what you are -
you are wonderful, that's all. But how do you do it? How do you
Martin paused from his rhapsody, only to break out afresh.
"I shall never write again. I am a dauber in clay. You have shown
me the work of the real artificer-artisan. Genius! This is
something more than genius. It transcends genius. It is truth
gone mad. It is true, man, every line of it. I wonder if you
realize that, you dogmatist. Science cannot give you the lie. It
is the truth of the sneer, stamped out from the black iron of the
Cosmos and interwoven with mighty rhythms of sound into a fabric of
splendor and beauty. And now I won't say another word. I am
overwhelmed, crushed. Yes, I will, too. Let me market it for
Brissenden grinned. "There's not a magazine in Christendom that
would dare to publish it - you know that."
"I know nothing of the sort. I know there's not a magazine in
Christendom that wouldn't jump at it. They don't get things like
that every day. That's no mere poem of the year. It's the poem of
"I'd like to take you up on the proposition."
"Now don't get cynical," Martin exhorted. "The magazine editors
are not wholly fatuous. I know that. And I'll close with you on
the bet. I'll wager anything you want that 'Ephemera' is accepted
either on the first or second offering."
"There's just one thing that prevents me from taking you."
Brissenden waited a moment. "The thing is big - the biggest I've
ever done. I know that. It's my swan song. I am almighty proud
of it. I worship it. It's better than whiskey. It is what I
dreamed of - the great and perfect thing - when I was a simple
young man, with sweet illusions and clean ideals. And I've got it,
now, in my last grasp, and I'll not have it pawed over and soiled
by a lot of swine. No, I won't take the bet. It's mine. I made
it, and I've shared it with you."
"But think of the rest of the world," Martin protested. "The
function of beauty is joy-making."
"It's my beauty."
"Don't be selfish."
"I'm not selfish." Brissenden grinned soberly in the way he had
when pleased by the thing his thin lips were about to shape. "I'm
as unselfish as a famished hog."
In vain Martin strove to shake him from his decision. Martin told
him that his hatred of the magazines was rabid, fanatical, and that
his conduct was a thousand times more despicable than that of the
youth who burned the temple of Diana at Ephesus. Under the storm
of denunciation Brissenden complacently sipped his toddy and
affirmed that everything the other said was quite true, with the
exception of the magazine editors. His hatred of them knew no
bounds, and he excelled Martin in denunciation when he turned upon
"I wish you'd type it for me," he said. "You know how a thousand
times better than any stenographer. And now I want to give you
some advice." He drew a bulky manuscript from his outside coat
pocket. "Here's your 'Shame of the Sun.' I've read it not once,
but twice and three times - the highest compliment I can pay you.
After what you've said about 'Ephemera' I must be silent. But this
I will say: when 'The Shame of the Sun' is published, it will make
a hit. It will start a controversy that will be worth thousands to
you just in advertising."
Martin laughed. "I suppose your next advice will be to submit it
to the magazines."
"By all means no - that is, if you want to see it in print. Offer
it to the first-class houses. Some publisher's reader may be mad
enough or drunk enough to report favorably on it. You've read the
books. The meat of them has been transmuted in the alembic of
Martin Eden's mind and poured into 'The Shame of the Sun,' and one
day Martin Eden will be famous, and not the least of his fame will
rest upon that work. So you must get a publisher for it - the
sooner the better."
Brissenden went home late that night; and just as he mounted the
first step of the car, he swung suddenly back on Martin and thrust
into his hand a small, tightly crumpled wad of paper.
"Here, take this," he said. "I was out to the races to-day, and I
had the right dope."
The bell clanged and the car pulled out, leaving Martin wondering
as to the nature of the crinkly, greasy wad he clutched in his
hand. Back in his room he unrolled it and found a hundred-dollar
He did not scruple to use it. He knew his friend had always plenty
of money, and he knew also, with profound certitude, that his
success would enable him to repay it. In the morning he paid every
bill, gave Maria three months' advance on the room, and redeemed
every pledge at the pawnshop. Next he bought Marian's wedding
present, and simpler presents, suitable to Christmas, for Ruth and
Gertrude. And finally, on the balance remaining to him, he herded
the whole Silva tribe down into Oakland. He was a winter late in
redeeming his promise, but redeemed it was, for the last, least
Silva got a pair of shoes, as well as Maria herself. Also, there
were horns, and dolls, and toys of various sorts, and parcels and
bundles of candies and nuts that filled the arms of all the Silvas
It was with this extraordinary procession trooping at his and
Maria's heels into a confectioner's in quest if the biggest candy-
cane ever made, that he encountered Ruth and her mother. Mrs.
Morse was shocked. Even Ruth was hurt, for she had some regard for
appearances, and her lover, cheek by jowl with Maria, at the head
of that army of Portuguese ragamuffins, was not a pretty sight.
But it was not that which hurt so much as what she took to be his
lack of pride and self-respect. Further, and keenest of all, she
read into the incident the impossibility of his living down his
working-class origin. There was stigma enough in the fact of it,
but shamelessly to flaunt it in the face of the world - her world -
was going too far. Though her engagement to Martin had been kept
secret, their long intimacy had not been unproductive of gossip;
and in the shop, glancing covertly at her lover and his following,
had been several of her acquaintances. She lacked the easy
largeness of Martin and could not rise superior to her environment.
She had been hurt to the quick, and her sensitive nature was
quivering with the shame of it. So it was, when Martin arrived
later in the day, that he kept her present in his breast-pocket,
deferring the giving of it to a more propitious occasion. Ruth in
tears - passionate, angry tears - was a revelation to him. The
spectacle of her suffering convinced him that he had been a brute,
yet in the soul of him he could not see how nor why. It never
entered his head to be ashamed of those he knew, and to take the
Silvas out to a Christmas treat could in no way, so it seemed to
him, show lack of consideration for Ruth. On the other hand, he
did see Ruth's point of view, after she had explained it; and he
looked upon it as a feminine weakness, such as afflicted all women
and the best of women.
"Come on, - I'll show you the real dirt," Brissenden said to him,
one evening in January.
They had dined together in San Francisco, and were at the Ferry
Building, returning to Oakland, when the whim came to him to show
Martin the "real dirt." He turned and fled across the water-front,
a meagre shadow in a flapping overcoat, with Martin straining to
keep up with him. At a wholesale liquor store he bought two
gallon-demijohns of old port, and with one in each hand boarded a
Mission Street car, Martin at his heels burdened with several
quart-bottles of whiskey.
If Ruth could see me now, was his thought, while he wondered as to
what constituted the real dirt.
"Maybe nobody will be there," Brissenden said, when they dismounted
and plunged off to the right into the heart of the working-class
ghetto, south of Market Street. "In which case you'll miss what
you've been looking for so long."
"And what the deuce is that?" Martin asked.
"Men, intelligent men, and not the gibbering nonentities I found
you consorting with in that trader's den. You read the books and
you found yourself all alone. Well, I'm going to show you to-night
some other men who've read the books, so that you won't be lonely
"Not that I bother my head about their everlasting discussions," he
said at the end of a block. "I'm not interested in book
philosophy. But you'll find these fellows intelligences and not
bourgeois swine. But watch out, they'll talk an arm off of you on
any subject under the sun."
"Hope Norton's there," he panted a little later, resisting Martin's
effort to relieve him of the two demijohns. "Norton's an idealist
- a Harvard man. Prodigious memory. Idealism led him to
philosophic anarchy, and his family threw him off. Father's a
railroad president and many times millionnaire, but the son's
starving in 'Frisco, editing an anarchist sheet for twenty-five a
Martin was little acquainted in San Francisco, and not at all south
of Market; so he had no idea of where he was being led.
"Go ahead," he said; "tell me about them beforehand. What do they
do for a living? How do they happen to be here?"
"Hope Hamilton's there." Brissenden paused and rested his hands.
"Strawn-Hamilton's his name - hyphenated, you know - comes of old
Southern stock. He's a tramp - laziest man I ever knew, though
he's clerking, or trying to, in a socialist cooperative store for
six dollars a week. But he's a confirmed hobo. Tramped into town.
I've seen him sit all day on a bench and never a bite pass his
lips, and in the evening, when I invited him to dinner - restaurant
two blocks away - have him say, 'Too much trouble, old man. Buy me
a package of cigarettes instead.' He was a Spencerian like you
till Kreis turned him to materialistic monism. I'll start him on
monism if I can. Norton's another monist - only he affirms naught
but spirit. He can give Kreis and Hamilton all they want, too."
"Who is Kreis?" Martin asked.
"His rooms we're going to. One time professor - fired from
university - usual story. A mind like a steel trap. Makes his
living any old way. I know he's been a street fakir when he was
down. Unscrupulous. Rob a corpse of a shroud - anything.
Difference between him - and the bourgeoisie is that he robs
without illusion. He'll talk Nietzsche, or Schopenhauer, or Kant,
or anything, but the only thing in this world, not excepting Mary,
that he really cares for, is his monism. Haeckel is his little tin
god. The only way to insult him is to take a slap at Haeckel."
"Here's the hang-out." Brissenden rested his demijohn at the
upstairs entrance, preliminary to the climb. It was the usual two-
story corner building, with a saloon and grocery underneath. "The
gang lives here - got the whole upstairs to themselves. But Kreis
is the only one who has two rooms. Come on."
No lights burned in the upper hall, but Brissenden threaded the
utter blackness like a familiar ghost. He stopped to speak to
"There's one fellow - Stevens - a theosophist. Makes a pretty
tangle when he gets going. Just now he's dish-washer in a
restaurant. Likes a good cigar. I've seen him eat in a ten-cent
hash-house and pay fifty cents for the cigar he smoked afterward.
I've got a couple in my pocket for him, if he shows up."
"And there's another fellow - Parry - an Australian, a statistician
and a sporting encyclopaedia. Ask him the grain output of Paraguay
for 1903, or the English importation of sheetings into China for
1890, or at what weight Jimmy Britt fought Battling Nelson, or who
was welter-weight champion of the United States in '68, and you'll
get the correct answer with the automatic celerity of a slot-
machine. And there's Andy, a stone-mason, has ideas on everything,
a good chess-player; and another fellow, Harry, a baker, red hot
socialist and strong union man. By the way, you remember Cooks'
and Waiters' strike - Hamilton was the chap who organized that
union and precipitated the strike - planned it all out in advance,
right here in Kreis's rooms. Did it just for the fun of it, but
was too lazy to stay by the union. Yet he could have risen high if
he wanted to. There's no end to the possibilities in that man - if
he weren't so insuperably lazy."
Brissenden advanced through the darkness till a thread of light
marked the threshold of a door. A knock and an answer opened it,
and Martin found himself shaking hands with Kreis, a handsome
brunette man, with dazzling white teeth, a drooping black mustache,
and large, flashing black eyes. Mary, a matronly young blonde, was
washing dishes in the little back room that served for kitchen and
dining room. The front room served as bedchamber and living room.
Overhead was the week's washing, hanging in festoons so low that
Martin did not see at first the two men talking in a corner. They
hailed Brissenden and his demijohns with acclamation, and, on being
introduced, Martin learned they were Andy and Parry. He joined
them and listened attentively to the description of a prize-fight
Parry had seen the night before; while Brissenden, in his glory,
plunged into the manufacture of a toddy and the serving of wine and
whiskey-and-sodas. At his command, "Bring in the clan," Andy
departed to go the round of the rooms for the lodgers.
"We're lucky that most of them are here," Brissenden whispered to
Martin. "There's Norton and Hamilton; come on and meet them.
Stevens isn't around, I hear. I'm going to get them started on
monism if I can. Wait till they get a few jolts in them and
they'll warm up."
At first the conversation was desultory. Nevertheless Martin could
not fail to appreciate the keen play of their minds. They were men
with opinions, though the opinions often clashed, and, though they
were witty and clever, they were not superficial. He swiftly saw,
no matter upon what they talked, that each man applied the
correlation of knowledge and had also a deep-seated and unified
conception of society and the Cosmos. Nobody manufactured their
opinions for them; they were all rebels of one variety or another,
and their lips were strangers to platitudes. Never had Martin, at
the Morses', heard so amazing a range of topics discussed. There
seemed no limit save time to the things they were alive to. The
talk wandered from Mrs. Humphry Ward's new book to Shaw's latest
play, through the future of the drama to reminiscences of
Mansfield. They appreciated or sneered at the morning editorials,
jumped from labor conditions in New Zealand to Henry James and
Brander Matthews, passed on to the German designs in the Far East
and the economic aspect of the Yellow Peril, wrangled over the
German elections and Bebel's last speech, and settled down to local
politics, the latest plans and scandals in the union labor party
administration, and the wires that were pulled to bring about the
Coast Seamen's strike. Martin was struck by the inside knowledge
they possessed. They knew what was never printed in the newspapers
- the wires and strings and the hidden hands that made the puppets
dance. To Martin's surprise, the girl, Mary, joined in the
conversation, displaying an intelligence he had never encountered
in the few women he had met. They talked together on Swinburne and
Rossetti, after which she led him beyond his depth into the by-
paths of French literature. His revenge came when she defended
Maeterlinck and he brought into action the carefully-thought-out
thesis of "The Shame of the Sun."
Several other men had dropped in, and the air was thick with
tobacco smoke, when Brissenden waved the red flag.
"Here's fresh meat for your axe, Kreis," he said; "a rose-white
youth with the ardor of a lover for Herbert Spencer. Make a
Haeckelite of him - if you can."
Kreis seemed to wake up and flash like some metallic, magnetic
thing, while Norton looked at Martin sympathetically, with a sweet,
girlish smile, as much as to say that he would be amply protected.
Kreis began directly on Martin, but step by step Norton interfered,
until he and Kreis were off and away in a personal battle. Martin
listened and fain would have rubbed his eyes. It was impossible
that this should be, much less in the labor ghetto south of Market.
The books were alive in these men. They talked with fire and
enthusiasm, the intellectual stimulant stirring them as he had seen
drink and anger stir other men. What he heard was no longer the
philosophy of the dry, printed word, written by half-mythical
demigods like Kant and Spencer. It was living philosophy, with
warm, red blood, incarnated in these two men till its very features
worked with excitement. Now and again other men joined in, and all
followed the discussion with cigarettes going out in their hands
and with alert, intent faces.
Idealism had never attracted Martin, but the exposition it now
received at the hands of Norton was a revelation. The logical
plausibility of it, that made an appeal to his intellect, seemed
missed by Kreis and Hamilton, who sneered at Norton as a
metaphysician, and who, in turn, sneered back at them as
metaphysicians. PHENOMENON and NOUMENON were bandied back and
forth. They charged him with attempting to explain consciousness
by itself. He charged them with word-jugglery, with reasoning from
words to theory instead of from facts to theory. At this they were
aghast. It was the cardinal tenet of their mode of reasoning to
start with facts and to give names to the facts.
When Norton wandered into the intricacies of Kant, Kreis reminded
him that all good little German philosophies when they died went to
Oxford. A little later Norton reminded them of Hamilton's Law of
Parsimony, the application of which they immediately claimed for
every reasoning process of theirs. And Martin hugged his knees and
exulted in it all. But Norton was no Spencerian, and he, too,
strove for Martin's philosophic soul, talking as much at him as to
his two opponents.
"You know Berkeley has never been answered," he said, looking
directly at Martin. "Herbert Spencer came the nearest, which was
not very near. Even the stanchest of Spencer's followers will not
go farther. I was reading an essay of Saleeby's the other day, and
the best Saleeby could say was that Herbert Spencer NEARLY
succeeded in answering Berkeley."
"You know what Hume said?" Hamilton asked. Norton nodded, but
Hamilton gave it for the benefit of the rest. "He said that
Berkeley's arguments admit of no answer and produce no conviction."
"In his, Hume's, mind," was the reply. "And Hume's mind was the
same as yours, with this difference: he was wise enough to admit
there was no answering Berkeley."
Norton was sensitive and excitable, though he never lost his head,
while Kreis and Hamilton were like a pair of cold-blooded savages,
seeking out tender places to prod and poke. As the evening grew
late, Norton, smarting under the repeated charges of being a
metaphysician, clutching his chair to keep from jumping to his
feet, his gray eyes snapping and his girlish face grown harsh and
sure, made a grand attack upon their position.
"All right, you Haeckelites, I may reason like a medicine man, but,
pray, how do you reason? You have nothing to stand on, you
unscientific dogmatists with your positive science which you are
always lugging about into places it has no right to be. Long
before the school of materialistic monism arose, the ground was
removed so that there could be no foundation. Locke was the man,
John Locke. Two hundred years ago - more than that, even in his
'Essay concerning the Human Understanding,' he proved the non-
existence of innate ideas. The best of it is that that is
precisely what you claim. To-night, again and again, you have
asserted the non-existence of innate ideas.
"And what does that mean? It means that you can never know
ultimate reality. Your brains are empty when you are born.
Appearances, or phenomena, are all the content your minds can
receive from your five senses. Then noumena, which are not in your
minds when you are born, have no way of getting in - "
"I deny - " Kreis started to interrupt.
"You wait till I'm done," Norton shouted. "You can know only that
much of the play and interplay of force and matter as impinges in
one way or another on our senses. You see, I am willing to admit,
for the sake of the argument, that matter exists; and what I am
about to do is to efface you by your own argument. I can't do it
any other way, for you are both congenitally unable to understand a
"And now, what do you know of matter, according to your own
positive science? You know it only by its phenomena, its
appearances. You are aware only of its changes, or of such changes
in it as cause changes in your consciousness. Positive science
deals only with phenomena, yet you are foolish enough to strive to
be ontologists and to deal with noumena. Yet, by the very
definition of positive science, science is concerned only with
appearances. As somebody has said, phenomenal knowledge cannot
"You cannot answer Berkeley, even if you have annihilated Kant, and
yet, perforce, you assume that Berkeley is wrong when you affirm
that science proves the non-existence of God, or, as much to the
point, the existence of matter. - You know I granted the reality of
matter only in order to make myself intelligible to your
understanding. Be positive scientists, if you please; but ontology
has no place in positive science, so leave it alone. Spencer is
right in his agnosticism, but if Spencer - "
But it was time to catch the last ferry-boat for Oakland, and
Brissenden and Martin slipped out, leaving Norton still talking and
Kreis and Hamilton waiting to pounce on him like a pair of hounds
as soon as he finished.
"You have given me a glimpse of fairyland," Martin said on the
ferry-boat. "It makes life worth while to meet people like that.
My mind is all worked up. I never appreciated idealism before.
Yet I can't accept it. I know that I shall always be a realist. I
am so made, I guess. But I'd like to have made a reply to Kreis
and Hamilton, and I think I'd have had a word or two for Norton. I
didn't see that Spencer was damaged any. I'm as excited as a child
on its first visit to the circus. I see I must read up some more.
I'm going to get hold of Saleeby. I still think Spencer is
unassailable, and next time I'm going to take a hand myself."
But Brissenden, breathing painfully, had dropped off to sleep, his
chin buried in a scarf and resting on his sunken chest, his body
wrapped in the long overcoat and shaking to the vibration of the
The first thing Martin did next morning was to go counter both to
Brissenden's advice and command. "The Shame of the Sun" he wrapped
and mailed to THE ACROPOLIS. He believed he could find magazine
publication for it, and he felt that recognition by the magazines
would commend him to the book-publishing houses. "Ephemera" he
likewise wrapped and mailed to a magazine. Despite Brissenden's
prejudice against the magazines, which was a pronounced mania with
him, Martin decided that the great poem should see print. He did
not intend, however, to publish it without the other's permission.
His plan was to get it accepted by one of the high magazines, and,
thus armed, again to wrestle with Brissenden for consent.
Martin began, that morning, a story which he had sketched out a
number of weeks before and which ever since had been worrying him
with its insistent clamor to be created. Apparently it was to be a
rattling sea story, a tale of twentieth-century adventure and
romance, handling real characters, in a real world, under real
conditions. But beneath the swing and go of the story was to be
something else - something that the superficial reader would never
discern and which, on the other hand, would not diminish in any way
the interest and enjoyment for such a reader. It was this, and not
the mere story, that impelled Martin to write it. For that matter,
it was always the great, universal motif that suggested plots to
him. After having found such a motif, he cast about for the
particular persons and particular location in time and space
wherewith and wherein to utter the universal thing. "Overdue" was
the title he had decided for it, and its length he believed would
not be more than sixty thousand words - a bagatelle for him with
his splendid vigor of production. On this first day he took hold
of it with conscious delight in the mastery of his tools. He no
longer worried for fear that the sharp, cutting edges should slip
and mar his work. The long months of intense application and study
had brought their reward. He could now devote himself with sure
hand to the larger phases of the thing he shaped; and as he worked,
hour after hour, he felt, as never before, the sure and cosmic
grasp with which he held life and the affairs of life. "Overdue"
would tell a story that would be true of its particular characters
and its particular events; but it would tell, too, he was
confident, great vital things that would be true of all time, and
all sea, and all life - thanks to Herbert Spencer, he thought,
leaning back for a moment from the table. Ay, thanks to Herbert
Spencer and to the master-key of life, evolution, which Spencer had
placed in his hands.
He was conscious that it was great stuff he was writing. "It will
go! It will go!" was the refrain that kept, sounding in his ears.
Of course it would go. At last he was turning out the thing at
which the magazines would jump. The whole story worked out before
him in lightning flashes. He broke off from it long enough to
write a paragraph in his note-book. This would be the last
paragraph in "Overdue"; but so thoroughly was the whole book
already composed in his brain that he could write, weeks before he
had arrived at the end, the end itself. He compared the tale, as
yet unwritten, with the tales of the sea-writers, and he felt it to
be immeasurably superior. "There's only one man who could touch
it," he murmured aloud, "and that's Conrad. And it ought to make
even him sit up and shake hands with me, and say, 'Well done,
Martin, my boy.'"
He toiled on all day, recollecting, at the last moment, that he was
to have dinner at the Morses'. Thanks to Brissenden, his black
suit was out of pawn and he was again eligible for dinner parties.
Down town he stopped off long enough to run into the library and
search for Saleeby's books. He drew out 'The Cycle of Life," and
on the car turned to the essay Norton had mentioned on Spencer. As
Martin read, he grew angry. His face flushed, his jaw set, and
unconsciously his hand clenched, unclenched, and clenched again as
if he were taking fresh grips upon some hateful thing out of which
he was squeezing the life. When he left the car, he strode along
the sidewalk as a wrathful man will stride, and he rang the Morse
bell with such viciousness that it roused him to consciousness of
his condition, so that he entered in good nature, smiling with
amusement at himself. No sooner, however, was he inside than a
great depression descended upon him. He fell from the height where
he had been up-borne all day on the wings of inspiration.
"Bourgeois," "trader's den" - Brissenden's epithets repeated
themselves in his mind. But what of that? he demanded angrily. He
was marrying Ruth, not her family.
It seemed to him that he had never seen Ruth more beautiful, more
spiritual and ethereal and at the same time more healthy. There
was color in her cheeks, and her eyes drew him again and again -
the eyes in which he had first read immortality. He had forgotten
immortality of late, and the trend of his scientific reading had
been away from it; but here, in Ruth's eyes, he read an argument
without words that transcended all worded arguments. He saw that
in her eyes before which all discussion fled away, for he saw love
there. And in his own eyes was love; and love was unanswerable.
Such was his passionate doctrine.
The half hour he had with her, before they went in to dinner, left
him supremely happy and supremely satisfied with life.
Nevertheless, at table, the inevitable reaction and exhaustion
consequent upon the hard day seized hold of him. He was aware that
his eyes were tired and that he was irritable. He remembered it
was at this table, at which he now sneered and was so often bored,
that he had first eaten with civilized beings in what he had
imagined was an atmosphere of high culture and refinement. He
caught a glimpse of that pathetic figure of him, so long ago, a
self-conscious savage, sprouting sweat at every pore in an agony of
apprehension, puzzled by the bewildering minutiae of eating-
implements, tortured by the ogre of a servant, striving at a leap
to live at such dizzy social altitude, and deciding in the end to
be frankly himself, pretending no knowledge and no polish he did
He glanced at Ruth for reassurance, much in the same manner that a
passenger, with sudden panic thought of possible shipwreck, will
strive to locate the life preservers. Well, that much had come out
of it - love and Ruth. All the rest had failed to stand the test
of the books. But Ruth and love had stood the test; for them he
found a biological sanction. Love was the most exalted expression
of life. Nature had been busy designing him, as she had been busy
with all normal men, for the purpose of loving. She had spent ten
thousand centuries - ay, a hundred thousand and a million centuries
- upon the task, and he was the best she could do. She had made
love the strongest thing in him, increased its power a myriad per
cent with her gift of imagination, and sent him forth into the
ephemera to thrill and melt and mate. His hand sought Ruth's hand
beside him hidden by the table, and a warm pressure was given and
received. She looked at him a swift instant, and her eyes were
radiant and melting. So were his in the thrill that pervaded him;
nor did he realize how much that was radiant and melting in her
eyes had been aroused by what she had seen in his.
Across the table from him, cater-cornered, at Mr. Morse's right,
sat Judge Blount, a local superior court judge. Martin had met him
a number of times and had failed to like him. He and Ruth's father
were discussing labor union politics, the local situation, and
socialism, and Mr. Morse was endeavoring to twit Martin on the
latter topic. At last Judge Blount looked across the table with
benignant and fatherly pity. Martin smiled to himself.
"You'll grow out of it, young man," he said soothingly. "Time is
the best cure for such youthful distempers." He turned to Mr.
Morse. "I do not believe discussion is good in such cases. It
makes the patient obstinate."
"That is true," the other assented gravely. "But it is well to
warn the patient occasionally of his condition."
Martin laughed merrily, but it was with an effort. The day had
been too long, the day's effort too intense, and he was deep in the
throes of the reaction.
"Undoubtedly you are both excellent doctors," he said; "but if you
care a whit for the opinion of the patient, let him tell you that
you are poor diagnosticians. In fact, you are both suffering from
the disease you think you find in me. As for me, I am immune. The
socialist philosophy that riots half-baked in your veins has passed
"Clever, clever," murmured the judge. "An excellent ruse in
controversy, to reverse positions."
"Out of your mouth." Martin's eyes were sparkling, but he kept
control of himself. "You see, Judge, I've heard your campaign
speeches. By some henidical process - henidical, by the way is a
favorite word of mine which nobody understands - by some henidical
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