Monday morning, Joe groaned over the first truck load of clothes to the washer.
“I say,” he began.
“Don’t talk to me,” Martin snarled.
“I’m sorry, Joe,” he said at noon, when they knocked off for dinner.
Tears came into the other’s eyes.
“That’s all right, old man,” he said. “We’re in hell, an’ we can’t help ourselves. An’, you know, I kind of like you a whole lot. That’s what made it—hurt. I cottoned to you from the first.”
Martin shook his hand.
“Let’s quit,” Joe suggested. “Let’s chuck it, an’ go hoboin’. I ain’t never tried it, but it must be dead easy. An’ nothin’ to do. Just think of it, nothin’ to do. I was sick once, typhoid, in the hospital, an’ it was beautiful. I wish I’d get sick again.”
The week dragged on. The hotel was full, and extra “fancy starch” poured in upon them. They performed prodigies of valor. They fought late each night under the electric lights, bolted their meals, and even got in a half hour’s work before breakfast. Martin no longer took his cold baths. Every moment was drive, drive, drive, and Joe was the masterful shepherd of moments, herding them carefully, never losing one, counting them over like a miser counting gold, working on in a frenzy, toil-mad, a feverish machine, aided ably by that other machine that thought of itself as once having been one Martin Eden, a man.
But it was only at rare moments that Martin was able to think. The house of thought was closed, its windows boarded up, and he was its shadowy caretaker. He was a shadow. Joe was right. They were both shadows, and this was the unending limbo of toil. Or was it a dream? Sometimes, in the steaming, sizzling heat, as he swung the heavy irons back and forth over the white garments, it came to him that it was a dream. In a short while, or maybe after a thousand years or so, he would awake, in his little room with the ink-stained table, and take up his writing where he had left off the day before. Or maybe that was a dream, too, and the awakening would be the changing of the watches, when he would drop down out of his bunk in the lurching forecastle and go up on deck, under the tropic stars, and take the wheel and feel the cool tradewind blowing through his flesh.
Came Saturday and its hollow victory at three o’clock.
“Guess I’ll go down an’ get a glass of beer,” Joe said, in the queer, monotonous tones that marked his week-end collapse.
Martin seemed suddenly to wake up. He opened the kit bag and oiled his wheel, putting graphite on the chain and adjusting the bearings. Joe was halfway down to the saloon when Martin passed by, bending low over the handle-bars, his legs driving the ninety-six gear with rhythmic strength, his face set for seventy miles of road and grade and dust. He slept in Oakland that night, and on Sunday covered the seventy miles back. And on Monday morning, weary, he began the new week’s work, but he had kept sober.
A fifth week passed, and a sixth, during which he lived and toiled as a machine, with just a spark of something more in him, just a glimmering bit of soul, that compelled him, at each week-end, to scorch off the hundred and forty miles. But this was not rest. It was super-machinelike, and it helped to crush out the glimmering bit of soul that was all that was left him from former life. At the end of the seventh week, without intending it, too weak to resist, he drifted down to the village with Joe and drowned life and found life until Monday morning.
Again, at the week-ends, he ground out the one hundred and forty miles, obliterating the numbness of too great exertion by the numbness of still greater exertion. At the end of three months he went down a third time to the village with Joe. He forgot, and lived again, and, living, he saw, in clear illumination, the beast he was making of himself—not by the drink, but by the work. The drink was an effect, not a cause. It followed inevitably upon the work, as the night follows upon the day. Not by becoming a toil-beast could he win to the heights, was the message the whiskey whispered to him, and he nodded approbation. The whiskey was wise. It told secrets on itself.
He called for paper and pencil, and for drinks all around, and while they drank his very good health, he clung to the bar and scribbled.
“A telegram, Joe,” he said. “Read it.”
Joe read it with a drunken, quizzical leer. But what he read seemed to sober him. He looked at the other reproachfully, tears oozing into his eyes and down his cheeks.
“You ain’t goin’ back on me, Mart?” he queried hopelessly.
Martin nodded, and called one of the loungers to him to take the message to the telegraph office.
“Hold on,” Joe muttered thickly. “Lemme think.”
He held on to the bar, his legs wobbling under him, Martin’s arm around him and supporting him, while he thought.
“Make that two laundrymen,” he said abruptly. “Here, lemme fix it.”
“What are you quitting for?” Martin demanded.
“Same reason as you.”
“But I’m going to sea. You can’t do that.”
“Nope,” was the answer, “but I can hobo all right, all right.”
Martin looked at him searchingly for a moment, then cried:-
“By God, I think you’re right! Better a hobo than a beast of toil. Why, man, you’ll live. And that’s more than you ever did before.”
“I was in hospital, once,” Joe corrected. “It was beautiful. Typhoid—did I tell you?”
While Martin changed the telegram to “two laundrymen,” Joe went on:-
“I never wanted to drink when I was in hospital. Funny, ain’t it? But when I’ve ben workin’ like a slave all week, I just got to bowl up. Ever noticed that cooks drink like hell?—an’ bakers, too? It’s the work. They’ve sure got to. Here, lemme pay half of that telegram.”
“I’ll shake you for it,” Martin offered.
“Come on, everybody drink,” Joe called, as they rattled the dice and rolled them out on the damp bar.
Monday morning Joe was wild with anticipation. He did not mind his aching head, nor did he take interest in his work. Whole herds of moments stole away and were lost while their careless shepherd gazed out of the window at the sunshine and the trees.
“Just look at it!” he cried. “An’ it’s all mine! It’s free. I can lie down under them trees an’ sleep for a thousan’ years if I want to. Aw, come on, Mart, let’s chuck it. What’s the good of waitin’ another moment. That’s the land of nothin’ to do out there, an’ I got a ticket for it—an’ it ain’t no return ticket, b’gosh!”
A few minutes later, filling the truck with soiled clothes for the washer, Joe spied the hotel manager’s shirt. He knew its mark, and with a sudden glorious consciousness of freedom he threw it on the floor and stamped on it.
“I wish you was in it, you pig-headed Dutchman!” he shouted. “In it, an’ right there where I’ve got you! Take that! an’ that! an’ that! damn you! Hold me back, somebody! Hold me back!”
Martin laughed and held him to his work. On Tuesday night the new laundrymen arrived, and the rest of the week was spent breaking them into the routine. Joe sat around and explained his system, but he did no more work.
“Not a tap,” he announced. “Not a tap. They can fire me if they want to, but if they do, I’ll quit. No more work in mine, thank you kindly. Me for the freight cars an’ the shade under the trees. Go to it, you slaves! That’s right. Slave an’ sweat! Slave an’ sweat! An’ when you’re dead, you’ll rot the same as me, an’ what’s it matter how you live?—eh? Tell me that—what’s it matter in the long run?”
On Saturday they drew their pay and came to the parting of the ways.
“They ain’t no use in me askin’ you to change your mind an’ hit the road with me?” Joe asked hopelessly:
Martin shook his head. He was standing by his wheel, ready to start. They shook hands, and Joe held on to his for a moment, as he said:-
“I’m goin’ to see you again, Mart, before you an’ me die. That’s straight dope. I feel it in my bones. Good-by, Mart, an’ be good. I like you like hell, you know.”
He stood, a forlorn figure, in the middle of the road, watching until Martin turned a bend and was gone from sight.
“He’s a good Indian, that boy,” he muttered. “A good Indian.”
Then he plodded down the road himself, to the water tank, where half a dozen empties lay on a side-track waiting for the up freight.
Ruth and her family were home again, and Martin, returned to Oakland, saw much of her. Having gained her degree, she was doing no more studying; and he, having worked all vitality out of his mind and body, was doing no writing. This gave them time for each other that they had never had before, and their intimacy ripened fast.
At first, Martin had done nothing but rest. He had slept a great deal, and spent long hours musing and thinking and doing nothing. He was like one recovering from some terrible bout if hardship. The first signs of reawakening came when he discovered more than languid interest in the daily paper. Then he began to read again—light novels, and poetry; and after several days more he was head over heels in his long-neglected Fiske. His splendid body and health made new vitality, and he possessed all the resiliency and rebound of youth.
Ruth showed her disappointment plainly when he announced that he was going to sea for another voyage as soon as he was well rested.
“Why do you want to do that?” she asked.
“Money,” was the answer. “I’ll have to lay in a supply for my next attack on the editors. Money is the sinews of war, in my case—money and patience.”
“But if all you wanted was money, why didn’t you stay in the laundry?”
“Because the laundry was making a beast of me. Too much work of that sort drives to drink.”
She stared at him with horror in her eyes.
“Do you mean—?” she quavered.
It would have been easy for him to get out of it; but his natural impulse was for frankness, and he remembered his old resolve to be frank, no matter what happened.
“Yes,” he answered. “Just that. Several times.”
She shivered and drew away from him.
“No man that I have ever known did that—ever did that.”
“Then they never worked in the laundry at Shelly Hot Springs,” he laughed bitterly. “Toil is a good thing. It is necessary for human health, so all the preachers say, and Heaven knows I’ve never been afraid of it. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and the laundry up there is one of them. And that’s why I’m going to sea one more voyage. It will be my last, I think, for when I come back, I shall break into the magazines. I am certain of it.”
She was silent, unsympathetic, and he watched her moodily, realizing how impossible it was for her to understand what he had been through.
“Some day I shall write it up—‘The Degradation of Toil’ or the ‘Psychology of Drink in the Working-class,’ or something like that for a title.”
Never, since the first meeting, had they seemed so far apart as that day. His confession, told in frankness, with the spirit of revolt behind, had repelled her. But she was more shocked by the repulsion itself than by the cause of it. It pointed out to her how near she had drawn to him, and once accepted, it paved the way for greater intimacy. Pity, too, was aroused, and innocent, idealistic thoughts of reform. She would save this raw young man who had come so far. She would save him from the curse of his early environment, and she would save him from himself in spite of himself. And all this affected her as a very noble state of consciousness; nor did she dream that behind it and underlying it were the jealousy and desire of love.
They rode on their wheels much in the delightful fall weather, and out in the hills they read poetry aloud, now one and now the other, noble, uplifting poetry that turned one’s thoughts to higher things. Renunciation, sacrifice, patience, industry, and high endeavor were the principles she thus indirectly preached—such abstractions being objectified in her mind by her father, and Mr. Butler, and by Andrew Carnegie, who, from a poor immigrant boy had arisen to be the book-giver of the world. All of which was appreciated and enjoyed by Martin. He followed her mental processes more clearly now, and her soul was no longer the sealed wonder it had been. He was on terms of intellectual equality with her. But the points of disagreement did not affect his love. His love was more ardent than ever, for he loved her for what she was, and even her physical frailty was an added charm in his eyes. He read of sickly Elizabeth Barrett, who for years had not placed her feet upon the ground, until that day of flame when she eloped with Browning and stood upright, upon the earth, under the open sky; and what Browning had done for her, Martin decided he could do for Ruth. But first, she must love him. The rest would be easy. He would give her strength and health. And he caught glimpses of their life, in the years to come, wherein, against a background of work and comfort and general well-being, he saw himself and Ruth reading and discussing poetry, she propped amid a multitude of cushions on the ground while she read aloud to him. This was the key to the life they would live. And always he saw that particular picture. Sometimes it was she who leaned against him while he read, one arm about her, her head upon his shoulder. Sometimes they pored together over the printed pages of beauty. Then, too, she loved nature, and with generous imagination he changed the scene of their reading—sometimes they read in closed-in valleys with precipitous walls, or in high mountain meadows, and, again, down by the gray sand-dunes with a wreath of billows at their feet, or afar on some volcanic tropic isle where waterfalls descended and became mist, reaching the sea in vapor veils that swayed and shivered to every vagrant wisp of wind. But always, in the foreground, lords of beauty and eternally reading and sharing, lay he and Ruth, and always in the background that was beyond the background of nature, dim and hazy, were work and success and money earned that made them free of the world and all its treasures.
“I should recommend my little girl to be careful,” her mother warned her one day.
“I know what you mean. But it is impossible. He if; not—”
Ruth was blushing, but it was the blush of maidenhood called upon for the first time to discuss the sacred things of life with a mother held equally sacred.
“Your kind.” Her mother finished the sentence for her.
“I did not want to say it, but he is not. He is rough, brutal, strong—too strong. He has not—”
She hesitated and could not go on. It was a new experience, talking over such matters with her mother. And again her mother completed her thought for her.
“He has not lived a clean life, is what you wanted to say.”
Again Ruth nodded, and again a blush mantled her face.
“It is just that,” she said. “It has not been his fault, but he has played much with—”
“Yes, with pitch. And he frightens me. Sometimes I am positively in terror of him, when he talks in that free and easy way of the things he has done—as if they did not matter. They do matter, don’t they?”
They sat with their arms twined around each other, and in the pause her mother patted her hand and waited for her to go on.
“But I am interested in him dreadfully,” she continued. “In a way he is my protégé. Then, too, he is my first boy friend—but not exactly friend; rather protégé and friend combined. Sometimes, too, when he frightens me, it seems that he is a bulldog I have taken for a plaything, like some of the ‘frat’ girls, and he is tugging hard, and showing his teeth, and threatening to break loose.”
Again her mother waited.
“He interests me, I suppose, like the bulldog. And there is much good in him, too; but there is much in him that I would not like in—in the other way. You see, I have been thinking. He swears, he smokes, he drinks, he has fought with his fists (he has told me so, and he likes it; he says so). He is all that a man should not be—a man I would want for my—” her voice sank very low—“husband. Then he is too strong. My prince must be tall, and slender, and dark—a graceful, bewitching prince. No, there is no danger of my failing in love with Martin Eden. It would be the worst fate that could befall me.”
“But it is not that that I spoke about,” her mother equivocated. “Have you thought about him? He is so ineligible in every way, you know, and suppose he should come to love you?”
“But he does—already,” she cried.
“It was to be expected,” Mrs. Morse said gently. “How could it be otherwise with any one who knew you?”
“Olney hates me!” she exclaimed passionately. “And I hate Olney. I feel always like a cat when he is around. I feel that I must be nasty to him, and even when I don’t happen to feel that way, why, he’s nasty to me, anyway. But I am happy with Martin Eden. No one ever loved me before—no man, I mean, in that way. And it is sweet to be loved—that way. You know what I mean, mother dear. It is sweet to feel that you are really and truly a woman.” She buried her face in her mother’s lap, sobbing. “You think I am dreadful, I know, but I am honest, and I tell you just how I feel.”
Mrs. Morse was strangely sad and happy. Her child-daughter, who was a bachelor of arts, was gone; but in her place was a woman-daughter. The experiment had succeeded. The strange void in Ruth’s nature had been filled, and filled without danger or penalty. This rough sailor-fellow had been the instrument, and, though Ruth did not love him, he had made her conscious of her womanhood.
“His hand trembles,” Ruth was confessing, her face, for shame’s sake, still buried. “It is most amusing and ridiculous, but I feel sorry for him, too. And when his hands are too trembly, and his eyes too shiny, why, I lecture him about his life and the wrong way he is going about it to mend it. But he worships me, I know. His eyes and his hands do not lie. And it makes me feel grown-up, the thought of it, the very thought of it; and I feel that I am possessed of something that is by rights my own—that makes me like the other girls—and—and young women. And, then, too, I knew that I was not like them before, and I knew that it worried you. You thought you did not let me know that dear worry of yours, but I did, and I wanted to—‘to make good,’ as Martin Eden says.”
It was a holy hour for mother and daughter, and their eyes were wet as they talked on in the twilight, Ruth all white innocence and frankness, her mother sympathetic, receptive, yet calmly explaining and guiding.
“He is four years younger than you,” she said. “He has no place in the world. He has neither position nor salary. He is impractical. Loving you, he should, in the name of common sense, be doing something that would give him the right to marry, instead of paltering around with those stories of his and with childish dreams. Martin Eden, I am afraid, will never grow up. He does not take to responsibility and a man’s work in the world like your father did, or like all our friends, Mr. Butler for one. Martin Eden, I am afraid, will never be a money-earner. And this world is so ordered that money is necessary to happiness—oh, no, not these swollen fortunes, but enough of money to permit of common comfort and decency. He—he has never spoken?”
“He has not breathed a word. He has not attempted to; but if he did, I would not let him, because, you see, I do not love him.”
“I am glad of that. I should not care to see my daughter, my one daughter, who is so clean and pure, love a man like him. There are noble men in the world who are clean and true and manly. Wait for them. You will find one some day, and you will love him and be loved by him, and you will be happy with him as your father and I have been happy with each other. And there is one thing you must always carry in mind—”
Mrs. Morse’s voice was low and sweet as she said, “And that is the children.”
“I—have thought about them,” Ruth confessed, remembering the wanton thoughts that had vexed her in the past, her face again red with maiden shame that she should be telling such things.
“And it is that, the children, that makes Mr. Eden impossible,” Mrs. Morse went on incisively. “Their heritage must be clean, and he is, I am afraid, not clean. Your father has told me of sailors’ lives, and—and you understand.”
Ruth pressed her mother’s hand in assent, feeling that she really did understand, though her conception was of something vague, remote, and terrible that was beyond the scope of imagination.
“You know I do nothing without telling you,” she began. “—Only, sometimes you must ask me, like this time. I wanted to tell you, but I did not know how. It is false modesty, I know it is that, but you can make it easy for me. Sometimes, like this time, you must ask me, you must give me a chance.”
“Why, mother, you are a woman, too!” she cried exultantly, as they stood up, catching her mother’s hands and standing erect, facing her in the twilight, conscious of a strangely sweet equality between them. “I should never have thought of you in that way if we had not had this talk. I had to learn that I was a woman to know that you were one, too.”
“We are women together,” her mother said, drawing her to her and kissing her. “We are women together,” she repeated, as they went out of the room, their arms around each other’s waists, their hearts swelling with a new sense of companionship.
“Our little girl has become a woman,” Mrs. Morse said proudly to her husband an hour later.
“That means,” he said, after a long look at his wife, “that means she is in love.”
“No, but that she is loved,” was the smiling rejoinder. “The experiment has succeeded. She is awakened at last.”
“Then we’ll have to get rid of him.” Mr. Morse spoke briskly, in matter-of-fact, businesslike tones.
But his wife shook her head. “It will not be necessary. Ruth says he is going to sea in a few days. When he comes back, she will not be here. We will send her to Aunt Clara’s. And, besides, a year in the East, with the change in climate, people, ideas, and everything, is just the thing she needs.”
The desire to write was stirring in Martin once more. Stories and poems were springing into spontaneous creation in his brain, and he made notes of them against the future time when he would give them expression. But he did not write. This was his little vacation; he had resolved to devote it to rest and love, and in both matters he prospered. He was soon spilling over with vitality, and each day he saw Ruth, at the moment of meeting, she experienced the old shock of his strength and health.
“Be careful,” her mother warned her once again. “I am afraid you are seeing too much of Martin Eden.”
But Ruth laughed from security. She was sure of herself, and in a few days he would be off to sea. Then, by the time he returned, she would be away on her visit East. There was a magic, however, in the strength and health of Martin. He, too, had been told of her contemplated Eastern trip, and he felt the need for haste. Yet he did not know how to make love to a girl like Ruth. Then, too, he was handicapped by the possession of a great fund of experience with girls and women who had been absolutely different from her. They had known about love and life and flirtation, while she knew nothing about such things. Her prodigious innocence appalled him, freezing on his lips all ardors of speech, and convincing him, in spite of himself, of his own unworthiness. Also he was handicapped in another way. He had himself never been in love before. He had liked women in that turgid past of his, and been fascinated by some of them, but he had not known what it was to love them. He had whistled in a masterful, careless way, and they had come to him. They had been diversions, incidents, part of the game men play, but a small part at most. And now, and for the first time, he was a suppliant, tender and timid and doubting. He did not know the way of love, nor its speech, while he was frightened at his loved one’s clear innocence.
In the course of getting acquainted with a varied world, whirling on through the ever changing phases of it, he had learned a rule of conduct which was to the effect that when one played a strange game, he should let the other fellow play first. This had stood him in good stead a thousand times and trained him as an observer as well. He knew how to watch the thing that was strange, and to wait for a weakness, for a place of entrance, to divulge itself. It was like sparring for an opening in fist-fighting. And when such an opening came, he knew by long experience to play for it and to play hard.
So he waited with Ruth and watched, desiring to speak his love but not daring. He was afraid of shocking her, and he was not sure of himself. Had he but known it, he was following the right course with her. Love came into the world before articulate speech, and in its own early youth it had learned ways and means that it had never forgotten. It was in this old, primitive way that Martin wooed Ruth. He did not know he was doing it at first, though later he divined it. The touch of his hand on hers was vastly more potent than any word he could utter, the impact of his strength on her imagination was more alluring than the printed poems and spoken passions of a thousand generations of lovers. Whatever his tongue could express would have appealed, in part, to her judgment; but the touch of hand, the fleeting contact, made its way directly to her instinct. Her judgment was as young as she, but her instincts were as old as the race and older. They had been young when love was young, and they were wiser than convention and opinion and all the new-born things. So her judgment did not act. There was no call upon it, and she did not realize the strength of the appeal Martin made from moment to moment to her love-nature. That he loved her, on the other hand, was as clear as day, and she consciously delighted in beholding his love-manifestations—the glowing eyes with their tender lights, the trembling hands, and the never failing swarthy flush that flooded darkly under his sunburn. She even went farther, in a timid way inciting him, but doing it so delicately that he never suspected, and doing it half-consciously, so that she scarcely suspected herself. She thrilled with these proofs of her power that proclaimed her a woman, and she took an Eve-like delight in tormenting him and playing upon him.
Tongue-tied by inexperience and by excess of ardor, wooing unwittingly and awkwardly, Martin continued his approach by contact. The touch of his hand was pleasant to her, and something deliciously more than pleasant. Martin did not know it, but he did know that it was not distasteful to her. Not that they touched hands often, save at meeting and parting; but that in handling the bicycles, in strapping on the books of verse they carried into the hills, and in conning the pages of books side by side, there were opportunities for hand to stray against hand. And there were opportunities, too, for her hair to brush his cheek, and for shoulder to touch shoulder, as they leaned together over the beauty of the books. She smiled to herself at vagrant impulses which arose from nowhere and suggested that she rumple his hair; while he desired greatly, when they tired of reading, to rest his head in her lap and dream with closed eyes about the future that was to be theirs. On Sunday picnics at Shellmound Park and Schuetzen Park, in the past, he had rested his head on many laps, and, usually, he had slept soundly and selfishly while the girls shaded his face from the sun and looked down and loved him and wondered at his lordly carelessness of their love. To rest his head in a girl’s lap had been the easiest thing in the world until now, and now he found Ruth’s lap inaccessible and impossible. Yet it was right here, in his reticence, that the strength of his wooing lay. It was because of this reticence that he never alarmed her. Herself fastidious and timid, she never awakened to the perilous trend of their intercourse. Subtly and unaware she grew toward him and closer to him, while he, sensing the growing closeness, longed to dare but was afraid.
Once he dared, one afternoon, when he found her in the darkened living room with a blinding headache.
“Nothing can do it any good,” she had answered his inquiries. “And besides, I don’t take headache powders. Doctor Hall won’t permit me.”
“I can cure it, I think, and without drugs,” was Martin’s answer. “I am not sure, of course, but I’d like to try. It’s simply massage. I learned the trick first from the Japanese. They are a race of masseurs, you know. Then I learned it all over again with variations from the Hawaiians. They call it lomi-lomi. It can accomplish most of the things drugs accomplish and a few things that drugs can’t.”
Scarcely had his hands touched her head when she sighed deeply.
“That is so good,” she said.
She spoke once again, half an hour later, when she asked, “Aren’t you tired?”
The question was perfunctory, and she knew what the answer would be. Then she lost herself in drowsy contemplation of the soothing balm of his strength: Life poured from the ends of his fingers, driving the pain before it, or so it seemed to her, until with the easement of pain, she fell asleep and he stole away.
She called him up by telephone that evening to thank him.
“I slept until dinner,” she said. “You cured me completely, Mr. Eden, and I don’t know how to thank you.”
He was warm, and bungling of speech, and very happy, as he replied to her, and there was dancing in his mind, throughout the telephone conversation, the memory of Browning and of sickly Elizabeth Barrett. What had been done could be done again, and he, Martin Eden, could do it and would do it for Ruth Morse. He went back to his room and to the volume of Spencer’s “Sociology” lying open on the bed. But he could not read. Love tormented him and overrode his will, so that, despite all determination, he found himself at the little ink-stained table. The sonnet he composed that night was the first of a love-cycle of fifty sonnets which was completed within two months. He had the “Love-sonnets from the Portuguese” in mind as he wrote, and he wrote under the best conditions for great work, at a climacteric of living, in the throes of his own sweet love-madness.
The many hours he was not with Ruth he devoted to the “Love-cycle,” to reading at home, or to the public reading-rooms, where he got more closely in touch with the magazines of the day and the nature of their policy and content. The hours he spent with Ruth were maddening alike in promise and in inconclusiveness. It was a week after he cured her headache that a moonlight sail on Lake Merritt was proposed by Norman and seconded by Arthur and Olney. Martin was the only one capable of handling a boat, and he was pressed into service. Ruth sat near him in the stern, while the three young fellows lounged amidships, deep in a wordy wrangle over “frat” affairs.
The moon had not yet risen, and Ruth, gazing into the starry vault of the sky and exchanging no speech with Martin, experienced a sudden feeling of loneliness. She glanced at him. A puff of wind was heeling the boat over till the deck was awash, and he, one hand on tiller and the other on main-sheet, was luffing slightly, at the same time peering ahead to make out the near-lying north shore. He was unaware of her gaze, and she watched him intently, speculating fancifully about the strange warp of soul that led him, a young man with signal powers, to fritter away his time on the writing of stories and poems foredoomed to mediocrity and failure.
Her eyes wandered along the strong throat, dimly seen in the starlight, and over the firm-poised head, and the old desire to lay her hands upon his neck came back to her. The strength she abhorred attracted her. Her feeling of loneliness became more pronounced, and she felt tired. Her position on the heeling boat irked her, and she remembered the headache he had cured and the soothing rest that resided in him. He was sitting beside her, quite beside her, and the boat seemed to tilt her toward him. Then arose in her the impulse to lean against him, to rest herself against his strength—a vague, half-formed impulse, which, even as she considered it, mastered her and made her lean toward him. Or was it the heeling of the boat? She did not know. She never knew. She knew only that she was leaning against him and that the easement and soothing rest were very good. Perhaps it had been the boat’s fault, but she made no effort to retrieve it. She leaned lightly against his shoulder, but she leaned, and she continued to lean when he shifted his position to make it more comfortable for her.
It was a madness, but she refused to consider the madness. She was no longer herself but a woman, with a woman’s clinging need; and though she leaned ever so lightly, the need seemed satisfied. She was no longer tired. Martin did not speak. Had he, the spell would have been broken. But his reticence of love prolonged it. He was dazed and dizzy. He could not understand what was happening. It was too wonderful to be anything but a delirium. He conquered a mad desire to let go sheet and tiller and to clasp her in his arms. His intuition told him it was the wrong thing to do, and he was glad that sheet and tiller kept his hands occupied and fended off temptation. But he luffed the boat less delicately, spilling the wind shamelessly from the sail so as to prolong the tack to the north shore. The shore would compel him to go about, and the contact would be broken. He sailed with skill, stopping way on the boat without exciting the notice of the wranglers, and mentally forgiving his hardest voyages in that they had made this marvellous night possible, giving him mastery over sea and boat and wind so that he could sail with her beside him, her dear weight against him on his shoulder.
When the first light of the rising moon touched the sail, illuminating the boat with pearly radiance, Ruth moved away from him. And, even as she moved, she felt him move away. The impulse to avoid detection was mutual. The episode was tacitly and secretly intimate. She sat apart from him with burning cheeks, while the full force of it came home to her. She had been guilty of something she would not have her brothers see, nor Olney see. Why had she done it? She had never done anything like it in her life, and yet she had been moonlight-sailing with young men before. She had never desired to do anything like it. She was overcome with shame and with the mystery of her own burgeoning womanhood. She stole a glance at Martin, who was busy putting the boat about on the other tack, and she could have hated him for having made her do an immodest and shameful thing. And he, of all men! Perhaps her mother was right, and she was seeing too much of him. It would never happen again, she resolved, and she would see less of him in the future. She entertained a wild idea of explaining to him the first time they were alone together, of lying to him, of mentioning casually the attack of faintness that had overpowered her just before the moon came up. Then she remembered how they had drawn mutually away before the revealing moon, and she knew he would know it for a lie.
In the days that swiftly followed she was no longer herself but a strange, puzzling creature, wilful over judgment and scornful of self-analysis, refusing to peer into the future or to think about herself and whither she was drifting. She was in a fever of tingling mystery, alternately frightened and charmed, and in constant bewilderment. She had one idea firmly fixed, however, which insured her security. She would not let Martin speak his love. As long as she did this, all would be well. In a few days he would be off to sea. And even if he did speak, all would be well. It could not be otherwise, for she did not love him. Of course, it would be a painful half hour for him, and an embarrassing half hour for her, because it would be her first proposal. She thrilled deliciously at the thought. She was really a woman, with a man ripe to ask for her in marriage. It was a lure to all that was fundamental in her sex. The fabric of her life, of all that constituted her, quivered and grew tremulous. The thought fluttered in her mind like a flame-attracted moth. She went so far as to imagine Martin proposing, herself putting the words into his mouth; and she rehearsed her refusal, tempering it with kindness and exhorting him to true and noble manhood. And especially he must stop smoking cigarettes. She would make a point of that. But no, she must not let him speak at all. She could stop him, and she had told her mother that she would. All flushed and burning, she regretfully dismissed the conjured situation. Her first proposal would have to be deferred to a more propitious time and a more eligible suitor.
Came a beautiful fall day, warm and languid, palpitant with the hush of the changing season, a California Indian summer day, with hazy sun and wandering wisps of breeze that did not stir the slumber of the air. Filmy purple mists, that were not vapors but fabrics woven of color, hid in the recesses of the hills. San Francisco lay like a blur of smoke upon her heights. The intervening bay was a dull sheen of molten metal, whereon sailing craft lay motionless or drifted with the lazy tide. Far Tamalpais, barely seen in the silver haze, bulked hugely by the Golden Gate, the latter a pale gold pathway under the westering sun. Beyond, the Pacific, dim and vast, was raising on its sky-line tumbled cloud-masses that swept landward, giving warning of the first blustering breath of winter.
The erasure of summer was at hand. Yet summer lingered, fading and fainting among her hills, deepening the purple of her valleys, spinning a shroud of haze from waning powers and sated raptures, dying with the calm content of having lived and lived well. And among the hills, on their favorite knoll, Martin and Ruth sat side by side, their heads bent over the same pages, he reading aloud from the love-sonnets of the woman who had loved Browning as it is given to few men to be loved.
But the reading languished. The spell of passing beauty all about them was too strong. The golden year was dying as it had lived, a beautiful and unrepentant voluptuary, and reminiscent rapture and content freighted heavily the air. It entered into them, dreamy and languorous, weakening the fibres of resolution, suffusing the face of morality, or of judgment, with haze and purple mist. Martin felt tender and melting, and from time to time warm glows passed over him. His head was very near to hers, and when wandering phantoms of breeze stirred her hair so that it touched his face, the printed pages swam before his eyes.
“I don’t believe you know a word of what you are reading,” she said once when he had lost his place.
He looked at her with burning eyes, and was on the verge of becoming awkward, when a retort came to his lips.
“I don’t believe you know either. What was the last sonnet about?”
“I don’t know,” she laughed frankly. “I’ve already forgotten. Don’t let us read any more. The day is too beautiful.”
“It will be our last in the hills for some time,” he announced gravely. “There’s a storm gathering out there on the sea-rim.”
The book slipped from his hands to the ground, and they sat idly and silently, gazing out over the dreamy bay with eyes that dreamed and did not see. Ruth glanced sidewise at his neck. She did not lean toward him. She was drawn by some force outside of herself and stronger than gravitation, strong as destiny. It was only an inch to lean, and it was accomplished without volition on her part. Her shoulder touched his as lightly as a butterfly touches a flower, and just as lightly was the counter-pressure. She felt his shoulder press hers, and a tremor run through him. Then was the time for her to draw back. But she had become an automaton. Her actions had passed beyond the control of her will—she never thought of control or will in the delicious madness that was upon her. His arm began to steal behind her and around her. She waited its slow progress in a torment of delight. She waited, she knew not for what, panting, with dry, burning lips, a leaping pulse, and a fever of expectancy in all her blood. The girdling arm lifted higher and drew her toward him, drew her slowly and caressingly. She could wait no longer. With a tired sigh, and with an impulsive movement all her own, unpremeditated, spasmodic, she rested her head upon his breast. His head bent over swiftly, and, as his lips approached, hers flew to meet them.
This must be love, she thought, in the one rational moment that was vouchsafed her. If it was not love, it was too shameful. It could be nothing else than love. She loved the man whose arms were around her and whose lips were pressed to hers. She pressed more, tightly to him, with a snuggling movement of her body. And a moment later, tearing herself half out of his embrace, suddenly and exultantly she reached up and placed both hands upon Martin Eden’s sunburnt neck. So exquisite was the pang of love and desire fulfilled that she uttered a low moan, relaxed her hands, and lay half-swooning in his arms.
Not a word had been spoken, and not a word was spoken for a long time. Twice he bent and kissed her, and each time her lips met his shyly and her body made its happy, nestling movement. She clung to him, unable to release herself, and he sat, half supporting her in his arms, as he gazed with unseeing eyes at the blur of the great city across the bay. For once there were no visions in his brain. Only colors and lights and glows pulsed there, warm as the day and warm as his love. He bent over her. She was speaking.
“When did you love me?” she whispered.
“From the first, the very first, the first moment I laid eye on you. I was mad for love of you then, and in all the time that has passed since then I have only grown the madder. I am maddest, now, dear. I am almost a lunatic, my head is so turned with joy.”
“I am glad I am a woman, Martin—dear,” she said, after a long sigh.
He crushed her in his arms again and again, and then asked:-
“And you? When did you first know?”
“Oh, I knew it all the time, almost, from the first.”
“And I have been as blind as a bat!” he cried, a ring of vexation in his voice. “I never dreamed it until just how, when I—when I kissed you.”
“I didn’t mean that.” She drew herself partly away and looked at him. “I meant I knew you loved almost from the first.”
“And you?” he demanded.
“It came to me suddenly.” She was speaking very slowly, her eyes warm and fluttery and melting, a soft flush on her cheeks that did not go away. “I never knew until just now when—you put your arms around me. And I never expected to marry you, Martin, not until just now. How did you make me love you?”
“I don’t know,” he laughed, “unless just by loving you, for I loved you hard enough to melt the heart of a stone, much less the heart of the living, breathing woman you are.”
“This is so different from what I thought love would be,” she announced irrelevantly.
“What did you think it would be like?”
“I didn’t think it would be like this.” She was looking into his eyes at the moment, but her own dropped as she continued, “You see, I didn’t know what this was like.”
He offered to draw her toward him again, but it was no more than a tentative muscular movement of the girdling arm, for he feared that he might be greedy. Then he felt her body yielding, and once again she was close in his arms and lips were pressed on lips.
“What will my people say?” she queried, with sudden apprehension, in one of the pauses.
“I don’t know. We can find out very easily any time we are so minded.”
“But if mamma objects? I am sure I am afraid to tell her.”
“Let me tell her,” he volunteered valiantly. “I think your mother does not like me, but I can win her around. A fellow who can win you can win anything. And if we don’t—”
“Why, we’ll have each other. But there’s no danger not winning your mother to our marriage. She loves you too well.”
“I should not like to break her heart,” Ruth said pensively.
He felt like assuring her that mothers’ hearts were not so easily broken, but instead he said, “And love is the greatest thing in the world.”
“Do you know, Martin, you sometimes frighten me. I am frightened now, when I think of you and of what you have been. You must be very, very good to me. Remember, after all, that I am only a child. I never loved before.”
“Nor I. We are both children together. And we are fortunate above most, for we have found our first love in each other.”
“But that is impossible!” she cried, withdrawing herself from his arms with a swift, passionate movement. “Impossible for you. You have been a sailor, and sailors, I have heard, are—are—”
Her voice faltered and died away.
“Are addicted to having a wife in every port?” he suggested. “Is that what you mean?”
“Yes,” she answered in a low voice.
“But that is not love.” He spoke authoritatively. “I have been in many ports, but I never knew a passing touch of love until I saw you that first night. Do you know, when I said good night and went away, I was almost arrested.”
“Yes. The policeman thought I was drunk; and I was, too—with love for you.”
“But you said we were children, and I said it was impossible, for you, and we have strayed away from the point.”
“I said that I never loved anybody but you,” he replied. “You are my first, my very first.”
“And yet you have been a sailor,” she objected.
“But that doesn’t prevent me from loving you the first.”
“And there have been women—other women—oh!”
And to Martin Eden’s supreme surprise, she burst into a storm of tears that took more kisses than one and many caresses to drive away. And all the while there was running through his head Kipling’s line: “And the Colonel’s lady and Judy O’Grady are sisters under their skins.” It was true, he decided; though the novels he had read had led him to believe otherwise. His idea, for which the novels were responsible, had been that only formal proposals obtained in the upper classes. It was all right enough, down whence he had come, for youths and maidens to win each other by contact; but for the exalted personages up above on the heights to make love in similar fashion had seemed unthinkable. Yet the novels were wrong. Here was a proof of it. The same pressures and caresses, unaccompanied by speech, that were efficacious with the girls of the working-class, were equally efficacious with the girls above the working-class. They were all of the same flesh, after all, sisters under their skins; and he might have known as much himself had he remembered his Spencer. As he held Ruth in his arms and soothed her, he took great consolation in the thought that the Colonel’s lady and Judy O’Grady were pretty much alike under their skins. It brought Ruth closer to him, made her possible. Her dear flesh was as anybody’s flesh, as his flesh. There was no bar to their marriage. Class difference was the only difference, and class was extrinsic. It could be shaken off. A slave, he had read, had risen to the Roman purple. That being so, then he could rise to Ruth. Under her purity, and saintliness, and culture, and ethereal beauty of soul, she was, in things fundamentally human, just like Lizzie Connolly and all Lizzie Connollys. All that was possible of them was possible of her. She could love, and hate, maybe have hysterics; and she could certainly be jealous, as she was jealous now, uttering her last sobs in his arms.
“Besides, I am older than you,” she remarked suddenly, opening her eyes and looking up at him, “three years older.”
“Hush, you are only a child, and I am forty years older than you, in experience,” was his answer.
In truth, they were children together, so far as love was concerned, and they were as naive and immature in the expression of their love as a pair of children, and this despite the fact that she was crammed with a university education and that his head was full of scientific philosophy and the hard facts of life.
They sat on through the passing glory of the day, talking as lovers are prone to talk, marvelling at the wonder of love and at destiny that had flung them so strangely together, and dogmatically believing that they loved to a degree never attained by lovers before. And they returned insistently, again and again, to a rehearsal of their first impressions of each other and to hopeless attempts to analyze just precisely what they felt for each other and how much there was of it.
The cloud-masses on the western horizon received the descending sun, and the circle of the sky turned to rose, while the zenith glowed with the same warm color. The rosy light was all about them, flooding over them, as she sang, “Good-by, Sweet Day.” She sang softly, leaning in the cradle of his arm, her hands in his, their hearts in each other’s hands.
Mrs. Morse did not require a mother’s intuition to read the advertisement in Ruth’s face when she returned home. The flush that would not leave the cheeks told the simple story, and more eloquently did the eyes, large and bright, reflecting an unmistakable inward glory.
“What has happened?” Mrs. Morse asked, having bided her time till Ruth had gone to bed.
“You know?” Ruth queried, with trembling lips.
For reply, her mother’s arm went around her, and a hand was softly caressing her hair.
“He did not speak,” she blurted out. “I did not intend that it should happen, and I would never have let him speak—only he didn’t speak.”
“But if he did not speak, then nothing could have happened, could it?”
“But it did, just the same.”
“In the name of goodness, child, what are you babbling about?” Mrs. Morse was bewildered. “I don’t think I know what happened, after all. What did happen?”
Ruth looked at her mother in surprise.
“I thought you knew. Why, we’re engaged, Martin and I.”
Mrs. Morse laughed with incredulous vexation.
“No, he didn’t speak,” Ruth explained. “He just loved me, that was all. I was as surprised as you are. He didn’t say a word. He just put his arm around me. And—and I was not myself. And he kissed me, and I kissed him. I couldn’t help it. I just had to. And then I knew I loved him.”
She paused, waiting with expectancy the benediction of her mother’s kiss, but Mrs. Morse was coldly silent.
“It is a dreadful accident, I know,” Ruth recommenced with a sinking voice. “And I don’t know how you will ever forgive me. But I couldn’t help it. I did not dream that I loved him until that moment. And you must tell father for me.”
“Would it not be better not to tell your father? Let me see Martin Eden, and talk with him, and explain. He will understand and release you.”
“No! no!” Ruth cried, starting up. “I do not want to be released. I love him, and love is very sweet. I am going to marry him—of course, if you will let me.”
“We have other plans for you, Ruth, dear, your father and I—oh, no, no; no man picked out for you, or anything like that. Our plans go no farther than your marrying some man in your own station in life, a good and honorable gentleman, whom you will select yourself, when you love him.”
“But I love Martin already,” was the plaintive protest.
“We would not influence your choice in any way; but you are our daughter, and we could not bear to see you make a marriage such as this. He has nothing but roughness and coarseness to offer you in exchange for all that is refined and delicate in you. He is no match for you in any way. He could not support you. We have no foolish ideas about wealth, but comfort is another matter, and our daughter should at least marry a man who can give her that—and not a penniless adventurer, a sailor, a cowboy, a smuggler, and Heaven knows what else, who, in addition to everything, is hare-brained and irresponsible.”
Ruth was silent. Every word she recognized as true.
“He wastes his time over his writing, trying to accomplish what geniuses and rare men with college educations sometimes accomplish. A man thinking of marriage should be preparing for marriage. But not he. As I have said, and I know you agree with me, he is irresponsible. And why should he not be? It is the way of sailors. He has never learned to be economical or temperate. The spendthrift years have marked him. It is not his fault, of course, but that does not alter his nature. And have you thought of the years of licentiousness he inevitably has lived? Have you thought of that, daughter? You know what marriage means.”
Ruth shuddered and clung close to her mother.
“I have thought.” Ruth waited a long time for the thought to frame itself. “And it is terrible. It sickens me to think of it. I told you it was a dreadful accident, my loving him; but I can’t help myself. Could you help loving father? Then it is the same with me. There is something in me, in him—I never knew it was there until to-day—but it is there, and it makes me love him. I never thought to love him, but, you see, I do,” she concluded, a certain faint triumph in her voice.
They talked long, and to little purpose, in conclusion agreeing to wait an indeterminate time without doing anything.
The same conclusion was reached, a little later that night, between Mrs. Morse and her husband, after she had made due confession of the miscarriage of her plans.
“It could hardly have come otherwise,” was Mr. Morse’s judgment. “This sailor-fellow has been the only man she was in touch with. Sooner or later she was going to awaken anyway; and she did awaken, and lo! here was this sailor-fellow, the only accessible man at the moment, and of course she promptly loved him, or thought she did, which amounts to the same thing.”
Mrs. Morse took it upon herself to work slowly and indirectly upon Ruth, rather than to combat her. There would be plenty of time for this, for Martin was not in position to marry.
“Let her see all she wants of him,” was Mr. Morse’s advice. “The more she knows him, the less she’ll love him, I wager. And give her plenty of contrast. Make a point of having young people at the house. Young women and young men, all sorts of young men, clever men, men who have done something or who are doing things, men of her own class, gentlemen. She can gauge him by them. They will show him up for what he is. And after all, he is a mere boy of twenty-one. Ruth is no more than a child. It is calf love with the pair of them, and they will grow out of it.”
So the matter rested. Within the family it was accepted that Ruth and Martin were engaged, but no announcement was made. The family did not think it would ever be necessary. Also, it was tacitly understood that it was to be a long engagement. They did not ask Martin to go to work, nor to cease writing. They did not intend to encourage him to mend himself. And he aided and abetted them in their unfriendly designs, for going to work was farthest from his thoughts.
“I wonder if you’ll like what I have done!” he said to Ruth several days later. “I’ve decided that boarding with my sister is too expensive, and I am going to board myself. I’ve rented a little room out in North Oakland, retired neighborhood and all the rest, you know, and I’ve bought an oil-burner on which to cook.”
Ruth was overjoyed. The oil-burner especially pleased her.
“That was the way Mr. Butler began his start,” she said.
Martin frowned inwardly at the citation of that worthy gentleman, and went on: “I put stamps on all my manuscripts and started them off to the editors again. Then to-day I moved in, and to-morrow I start to work.”
“A position!” she cried, betraying the gladness of her surprise in all her body, nestling closer to him, pressing his hand, smiling. “And you never told me! What is it?”
He shook his head.
“I meant that I was going to work at my writing.” Her face fell, and he went on hastily. “Don’t misjudge me. I am not going in this time with any iridescent ideas. It is to be a cold, prosaic, matter-of-fact business proposition. It is better than going to sea again, and I shall earn more money than any position in Oakland can bring an unskilled man.”
“You see, this vacation I have taken has given me perspective. I haven’t been working the life out of my body, and I haven’t been writing, at least not for publication. All I’ve done has been to love you and to think. I’ve read some, too, but it has been part of my thinking, and I have read principally magazines. I have generalized about myself, and the world, my place in it, and my chance to win to a place that will be fit for you. Also, I’ve been reading Spencer’s ‘Philosophy of Style,’ and found out a lot of what was the matter with me—or my writing, rather; and for that matter with most of the writing that is published every month in the magazines.”
“But the upshot of it all—of my thinking and reading and loving—is that I am going to move to Grub Street. I shall leave masterpieces alone and do hack-work—jokes, paragraphs, feature articles, humorous verse, and society verse—all the rot for which there seems so much demand. Then there are the newspaper syndicates, and the newspaper short-story syndicates, and the syndicates for the Sunday supplements. I can go ahead and hammer out the stuff they want, and earn the equivalent of a good salary by it. There are free-lances, you know, who earn as much as four or five hundred a month. I don’t care to become as they; but I’ll earn a good living, and have plenty of time to myself, which I wouldn’t have in any position.”
“Then, I’ll have my spare time for study and for real work. In between the grind I’ll try my hand at masterpieces, and I’ll study and prepare myself for the writing of masterpieces. Why, I am amazed at the distance I have come already. When I first tried to write, I had nothing to write about except a few paltry experiences which I neither understood nor appreciated. But I had no thoughts. I really didn’t. I didn’t even have the words with which to think. My experiences were so many meaningless pictures. But as I began to add to my knowledge, and to my vocabulary, I saw something more in my experiences than mere pictures. I retained the pictures and I found their interpretation. That was when I began to do good work, when I wrote ‘Adventure,’ ‘Joy,’ ‘The Pot,’ ‘The Wine of Life,’ ‘The Jostling Street,’ the ‘Love-cycle,’ and the ‘Sea Lyrics.’ I shall write more like them, and better; but I shall do it in my spare time. My feet are on the solid earth, now. Hack-work and income first, masterpieces afterward. Just to show you, I wrote half a dozen jokes last night for the comic weeklies; and just as I was going to bed, the thought struck me to try my hand at a triolet—a humorous one; and inside an hour I had written four. They ought to be worth a dollar apiece. Four dollars right there for a few afterthoughts on the way to bed.”
“Of course it’s all valueless, just so much dull and sordid plodding; but it is no more dull and sordid than keeping books at sixty dollars a month, adding up endless columns of meaningless figures until one dies. And furthermore, the hack-work keeps me in touch with things literary and gives me time to try bigger things.”
“But what good are these bigger-things, these masterpieces?” Ruth demanded. “You can’t sell them.”
“Oh, yes, I can,” he began; but she interrupted.
“All those you named, and which you say yourself are good—you have not sold any of them. We can’t get married on masterpieces that won’t sell.”
“Then we’ll get married on triolets that will sell,” he asserted stoutly, putting his arm around her and drawing a very unresponsive sweetheart toward him.
“Listen to this,” he went on in attempted gayety. “It’s not art, but it’s a dollar.
“He came in
When I was out,
To borrow some tin
Was why he came in,
And he went without;
So I was in
And he was out.”
The merry lilt with which he had invested the jingle was at variance with the dejection that came into his face as he finished. He had drawn no smile from Ruth. She was looking at him in an earnest and troubled way.
“It may be a dollar,” she said, “but it is a jester’s dollar, the fee of a clown. Don’t you see, Martin, the whole thing is lowering. I want the man I love and honor to be something finer and higher than a perpetrator of jokes and doggerel.”
“You want him to be like—say Mr. Butler?” he suggested.
“I know you don’t like Mr. Butler,” she began.
“Mr. Butler’s all right,” he interrupted. “It’s only his indigestion I find fault with. But to save me I can’t see any difference between writing jokes or comic verse and running a type-writer, taking dictation, or keeping sets of books. It is all a means to an end. Your theory is for me to begin with keeping books in order to become a successful lawyer or man of business. Mine is to begin with hack-work and develop into an able author.”
“There is a difference,” she insisted.
“What is it?”
“Why, your good work, what you yourself call good, you can’t sell. You have tried, you know that,—but the editors won’t buy it.”
“Give me time, dear,” he pleaded. “The hack-work is only makeshift, and I don’t take it seriously. Give me two years. I shall succeed in that time, and the editors will be glad to buy my good work. I know what I am saying; I have faith in myself. I know what I have in me; I know what literature is, now; I know the average rot that is poured out by a lot of little men; and I know that at the end of two years I shall be on the highroad to success. As for business, I shall never succeed at it. I am not in sympathy with it. It strikes me as dull, and stupid, and mercenary, and tricky. Anyway I am not adapted for it. I’d never get beyond a clerkship, and how could you and I be happy on the paltry earnings of a clerk? I want the best of everything in the world for you, and the only time when I won’t want it will be when there is something better. And I’m going to get it, going to get all of it. The income of a successful author makes Mr. Butler look cheap. A ‘best-seller’ will earn anywhere between fifty and a hundred thousand dollars—sometimes more and sometimes less; but, as a rule, pretty close to those figures.”
She remained silent; her disappointment was apparent.
“Well?” he asked.
“I had hoped and planned otherwise. I had thought, and I still think, that the best thing for you would be to study shorthand—you already know type-writing—and go into father’s office. You have a good mind, and I am confident you would succeed as a lawyer.”
That Ruth had little faith in his power as a writer, did not alter her nor diminish her in Martin’s eyes. In the breathing spell of the vacation he had taken, he had spent many hours in self-analysis, and thereby learned much of himself. He had discovered that he loved beauty more than fame, and that what desire he had for fame was largely for Ruth’s sake. It was for this reason that his desire for fame was strong. He wanted to be great in the world’s eyes; “to make good,” as he expressed it, in order that the woman he loved should be proud of him and deem him worthy.
As for himself, he loved beauty passionately, and the joy of serving her was to him sufficient wage. And more than beauty he loved Ruth. He considered love the finest thing in the world. It was love that had worked the revolution in him, changing him from an uncouth sailor to a student and an artist; therefore, to him, the finest and greatest of the three, greater than learning and artistry, was love. Already he had discovered that his brain went beyond Ruth’s, just as it went beyond the brains of her brothers, or the brain of her father. In spite of every advantage of university training, and in the face of her bachelorship of arts, his power of intellect overshadowed hers, and his year or so of self-study and equipment gave him a mastery of the affairs of the world and art and life that she could never hope to possess.
All this he realized, but it did not affect his love for her, nor her love for him. Love was too fine and noble, and he was too loyal a lover for him to besmirch love with criticism. What did love have to do with Ruth’s divergent views on art, right conduct, the French Revolution, or equal suffrage? They were mental processes, but love was beyond reason; it was superrational. He could not belittle love. He worshipped it. Love lay on the mountain-tops beyond the valley-land of reason. It was a sublimates condition of existence, the topmost peak of living, and it came rarely. Thanks to the school of scientific philosophers he favored, he knew the biological significance of love; but by a refined process of the same scientific reasoning he reached the conclusion that the human organism achieved its highest purpose in love, that love must not be questioned, but must be accepted as the highest guerdon of life. Thus, he considered the lover blessed over all creatures, and it was a delight to him to think of “God’s own mad lover,” rising above the things of earth, above wealth and judgment, public opinion and applause, rising above life itself and “dying on a kiss.”
Much of this Martin had already reasoned out, and some of it he reasoned out later. In the meantime he worked, taking no recreation except when he went to see Ruth, and living like a Spartan. He paid two dollars and a half a month rent for the small room he got from his Portuguese landlady, Maria Silva, a virago and a widow, hard working and harsher tempered, rearing her large brood of children somehow, and drowning her sorrow and fatigue at irregular intervals in a gallon of the thin, sour wine that she bought from the corner grocery and saloon for fifteen cents. From detesting her and her foul tongue at first, Martin grew to admire her as he observed the brave fight she made. There were but four rooms in the little house—three, when Martin’s was subtracted. One of these, the parlor, gay with an ingrain carpet and dolorous with a funeral card and a death-picture of one of her numerous departed babes, was kept strictly for company. The blinds were always down, and her barefooted tribe was never permitted to enter the sacred precinct save on state occasions. She cooked, and all ate, in the kitchen, where she likewise washed, starched, and ironed clothes on all days of the week except Sunday; for her income came largely from taking in washing from her more prosperous neighbors. Remained the bedroom, small as the one occupied by Martin, into which she and her seven little ones crowded and slept. It was an everlasting miracle to Martin how it was accomplished, and from her side of the thin partition he heard nightly every detail of the going to bed, the squalls and squabbles, the soft chattering, and the sleepy, twittering noises as of birds. Another source of income to Maria were her cows, two of them, which she milked night and morning and which gained a surreptitious livelihood from vacant lots and the grass that grew on either side the public side walks, attended always by one or more of her ragged boys, whose watchful guardianship consisted chiefly in keeping their eyes out for the poundmen.
In his own small room Martin lived, slept, studied, wrote, and kept house. Before the one window, looking out on the tiny front porch, was the kitchen table that served as desk, library, and type-writing stand. The bed, against the rear wall, occupied two-thirds of the total space of the room. The table was flanked on one side by a gaudy bureau, manufactured for profit and not for service, the thin veneer of which was shed day by day. This bureau stood in the corner, and in the opposite corner, on the table’s other flank, was the kitchen—the oil-stove on a dry-goods box, inside of which were dishes and cooking utensils, a shelf on the wall for provisions, and a bucket of water on the floor. Martin had to carry his water from the kitchen sink, there being no tap in his room. On days when there was much steam to his cooking, the harvest of veneer from the bureau was unusually generous. Over the bed, hoisted by a tackle to the ceiling, was his bicycle. At first he had tried to keep it in the basement; but the tribe of Silva, loosening the bearings and puncturing the tires, had driven him out. Next he attempted the tiny front porch, until a howling southeaster drenched the wheel a night-long. Then he had retreated with it to his room and slung it aloft.
A small closet contained his clothes and the books he had accumulated and for which there was no room on the table or under the table. Hand in hand with reading, he had developed the habit of making notes, and so copiously did he make them that there would have been no existence for him in the confined quarters had he not rigged several clothes-lines across the room on which the notes were hung. Even so, he was crowded until navigating the room was a difficult task. He could not open the door without first closing the closet door, and vice versa. It was impossible for him anywhere to traverse the room in a straight line. To go from the door to the head of the bed was a zigzag course that he was never quite able to accomplish in the dark without collisions. Having settled the difficulty of the conflicting doors, he had to steer sharply to the right to avoid the kitchen. Next, he sheered to the left, to escape the foot of the bed; but this sheer, if too generous, brought him against the corner of the table. With a sudden twitch and lurch, he terminated the sheer and bore off to the right along a sort of canal, one bank of which was the bed, the other the table. When the one chair in the room was at its usual place before the table, the canal was unnavigable. When the chair was not in use, it reposed on top of the bed, though sometimes he sat on the chair when cooking, reading a book while the water boiled, and even becoming skilful enough to manage a paragraph or two while steak was frying. Also, so small was the little corner that constituted the kitchen, he was able, sitting down, to reach anything he needed. In fact, it was expedient to cook sitting down; standing up, he was too often in his own way.
In conjunction with a perfect stomach that could digest anything, he possessed knowledge of the various foods that were at the same time nutritious and cheap. Pea-soup was a common article in his diet, as well as potatoes and beans, the latter large and brown and cooked in Mexican style. Rice, cooked as American housewives never cook it and can never learn to cook it, appeared on Martin’s table at least once a day. Dried fruits were less expensive than fresh, and he had usually a pot of them, cooked and ready at hand, for they took the place of butter on his bread. Occasionally he graced his table with a piece of round-steak, or with a soup-bone. Coffee, without cream or milk, he had twice a day, in the evening substituting tea; but both coffee and tea were excellently cooked.
There was need for him to be economical. His vacation had consumed nearly all he had earned in the laundry, and he was so far from his market that weeks must elapse before he could hope for the first returns from his hack-work. Except at such times as he saw Ruth, or dropped in to see his sister Gertude, he lived a recluse, in each day accomplishing at least three days’ labor of ordinary men. He slept a scant five hours, and only one with a constitution of iron could have held himself down, as Martin did, day after day, to nineteen consecutive hours of toil. He never lost a moment. On the looking-glass were lists of definitions and pronunciations; when shaving, or dressing, or combing his hair, he conned these lists over. Similar lists were on the wall over the oil-stove, and they were similarly conned while he was engaged in cooking or in washing the dishes. New lists continually displaced the old ones. Every strange or partly familiar word encountered in his reading was immediately jotted down, and later, when a sufficient number had been accumulated, were typed and pinned to the wall or looking-glass. He even carried them in his pockets, and reviewed them at odd moments on the street, or while waiting in butcher shop or grocery to be served.
He went farther in the matter. Reading the works of men who had arrived, he noted every result achieved by them, and worked out the tricks by which they had been achieved—the tricks of narrative, of exposition, of style, the points of view, the contrasts, the epigrams; and of all these he made lists for study. He did not ape. He sought principles. He drew up lists of effective and fetching mannerisms, till out of many such, culled from many writers, he was able to induce the general principle of mannerism, and, thus equipped, to cast about for new and original ones of his own, and to weigh and measure and appraise them properly. In similar manner he collected lists of strong phrases, the phrases of living language, phrases that bit like acid and scorched like flame, or that glowed and were mellow and luscious in the midst of the arid desert of common speech. He sought always for the principle that lay behind and beneath. He wanted to know how the thing was done; after that he could do it for himself. He was not content with the fair face of beauty. He dissected beauty in his crowded little bedroom laboratory, where cooking smells alternated with the outer bedlam of the Silva tribe; and, having dissected and learned the anatomy of beauty, he was nearer being able to create beauty itself.
He was so made that he could work only with understanding. He could not work blindly, in the dark, ignorant of what he was producing and trusting to chance and the star of his genius that the effect produced should be right and fine. He had no patience with chance effects. He wanted to know why and how. His was deliberate creative genius, and, before he began a story or poem, the thing itself was already alive in his brain, with the end in sight and the means of realizing that end in his conscious possession. Otherwise the effort was doomed to failure. On the other hand, he appreciated the chance effects in words and phrases that came lightly and easily into his brain, and that later stood all tests of beauty and power and developed tremendous and incommunicable connotations. Before such he bowed down and marvelled, knowing that they were beyond the deliberate creation of any man. And no matter how much he dissected beauty in search of the principles that underlie beauty and make beauty possible, he was aware, always, of the innermost mystery of beauty to which he did not penetrate and to which no man had ever penetrated. He knew full well, from his Spencer, that man can never attain ultimate knowledge of anything, and that the mystery of beauty was no less than that of life—nay, more that the fibres of beauty and life were intertwisted, and that he himself was but a bit of the same nonunderstandable fabric, twisted of sunshine and star-dust and wonder.
In fact, it was when filled with these thoughts that he wrote his essay entitled “Star-dust,” in which he had his fling, not at the principles of criticism, but at the principal critics. It was brilliant, deep, philosophical, and deliciously touched with laughter. Also it was promptly rejected by the magazines as often as it was submitted. But having cleared his mind of it, he went serenely on his way. It was a habit he developed, of incubating and maturing his thought upon a subject, and of then rushing into the type-writer with it. That it did not see print was a matter a small moment with him. The writing of it was the culminating act of a long mental process, the drawing together of scattered threads of thought and the final generalizing upon all the data with which his mind was burdened. To write such an article was the conscious effort by which he freed his mind and made it ready for fresh material and problems. It was in a way akin to that common habit of men and women troubled by real or fancied grievances, who periodically and volubly break their long-suffering silence and “have their say” till the last word is said.
The weeks passed. Martin ran out of money, and publishers’ checks were far away as ever. All his important manuscripts had come back and been started out again, and his hack-work fared no better. His little kitchen was no longer graced with a variety of foods. Caught in the pinch with a part sack of rice and a few pounds of dried apricots, rice and apricots was his menu three times a day for five days hand-running. Then he startled to realize on his credit. The Portuguese grocer, to whom he had hitherto paid cash, called a halt when Martin’s bill reached the magnificent total of three dollars and eighty-five cents.
“For you see,” said the grocer, “you no catcha da work, I losa da mon’.”
And Martin could reply nothing. There was no way of explaining. It was not true business principle to allow credit to a strong-bodied young fellow of the working-class who was too lazy to work.
“You catcha da job, I let you have mora da grub,” the grocer assured Martin. “No job, no grub. Thata da business.” And then, to show that it was purely business foresight and not prejudice, “Hava da drink on da house—good friends justa da same.”
So Martin drank, in his easy way, to show that he was good friends with the house, and then went supperless to bed.
The fruit store, where Martin had bought his vegetables, was run by an American whose business principles were so weak that he let Martin run a bill of five dollars before stopping his credit. The baker stopped at two dollars, and the butcher at four dollars. Martin added his debts and found that he was possessed of a total credit in all the world of fourteen dollars and eighty-five cents. He was up with his type-writer rent, but he estimated that he could get two months’ credit on that, which would be eight dollars. When that occurred, he would have exhausted all possible credit.
The last purchase from the fruit store had been a sack of potatoes, and for a week he had potatoes, and nothing but potatoes, three times a day. An occasional dinner at Ruth’s helped to keep strength in his body, though he found it tantalizing enough to refuse further helping when his appetite was raging at sight of so much food spread before it. Now and again, though afflicted with secret shame, he dropped in at his sister’s at meal-time and ate as much as he dared—more than he dared at the Morse table.
Day by day he worked on, and day by day the postman delivered to him rejected manuscripts. He had no money for stamps, so the manuscripts accumulated in a heap under the table. Came a day when for forty hours he had not tasted food. He could not hope for a meal at Ruth’s, for she was away to San Rafael on a two weeks’ visit; and for very shame’s sake he could not go to his sister’s. To cap misfortune, the postman, in his afternoon round, brought him five returned manuscripts. Then it was that Martin wore his overcoat down into Oakland, and came back without it, but with five dollars tinkling in his pocket. He paid a dollar each on account to the four tradesmen, and in his kitchen fried steak and onions, made coffee, and stewed a large pot of prunes. And having dined, he sat down at his table-desk and completed before midnight an essay which he entitled “The Dignity of Usury.” Having typed it out, he flung it under the table, for there had been nothing left from the five dollars with which to buy stamps.
Later on he pawned his watch, and still later his wheel, reducing the amount available for food by putting stamps on all his manuscripts and sending them out. He was disappointed with his hack-work. Nobody cared to buy. He compared it with what he found in the newspapers, weeklies, and cheap magazines, and decided that his was better, far better, than the average; yet it would not sell. Then he discovered that most of the newspapers printed a great deal of what was called “plate” stuff, and he got the address of the association that furnished it. His own work that he sent in was returned, along with a stereotyped slip informing him that the staff supplied all the copy that was needed.
In one of the great juvenile periodicals he noted whole columns of incident and anecdote. Here was a chance. His paragraphs were returned, and though he tried repeatedly he never succeeded in placing one. Later on, when it no longer mattered, he learned that the associate editors and sub-editors augmented their salaries by supplying those paragraphs themselves. The comic weeklies returned his jokes and humorous verse, and the light society verse he wrote for the large magazines found no abiding-place. Then there was the newspaper storiette. He knew that he could write better ones than were published. Managing to obtain the addresses of two newspaper syndicates, he deluged them with storiettes. When he had written twenty and failed to place one of them, he ceased. And yet, from day to day, he read storiettes in the dailies and weeklies, scores and scores of storiettes, not one of which would compare with his. In his despondency, he concluded that he had no judgment whatever, that he was hypnotized by what he wrote, and that he was a self-deluded pretender.
The inhuman editorial machine ran smoothly as ever. He folded the stamps in with his manuscript, dropped it into the letter-box, and from three weeks to a month afterward the postman came up the steps and handed him the manuscript. Surely there were no live, warm editors at the other end. It was all wheels and cogs and oil-cups—a clever mechanism operated by automatons. He reached stages of despair wherein he doubted if editors existed at all. He had never received a sign of the existence of one, and from absence of judgment in rejecting all he wrote it seemed plausible that editors were myths, manufactured and maintained by office boys, typesetters, and pressmen.
The hours he spent with Ruth were the only happy ones he had, and they were not all happy. He was afflicted always with a gnawing restlessness, more tantalizing than in the old days before he possessed her love; for now that he did possess her love, the possession of her was far away as ever. He had asked for two years; time was flying, and he was achieving nothing. Again, he was always conscious of the fact that she did not approve what he was doing. She did not say so directly. Yet indirectly she let him understand it as clearly and definitely as she could have spoken it. It was not resentment with her, but disapproval; though less sweet-natured women might have resented where she was no more than disappointed. Her disappointment lay in that this man she had taken to mould, refused to be moulded. To a certain extent she had found his clay plastic, then it had developed stubbornness, declining to be shaped in the image of her father or of Mr. Butler.
What was great and strong in him, she missed, or, worse yet, misunderstood. This man, whose clay was so plastic that he could live in any number of pigeonholes of human existence, she thought wilful and most obstinate because she could not shape him to live in her pigeonhole, which was the only one she knew. She could not follow the flights of his mind, and when his brain got beyond her, she deemed him erratic. Nobody else’s brain ever got beyond her. She could always follow her father and mother, her brothers and Olney; wherefore, when she could not follow Martin, she believed the fault lay with him. It was the old tragedy of insularity trying to serve as mentor to the universal.
“You worship at the shrine of the established,” he told her once, in a discussion they had over Praps and Vanderwater. “I grant that as authorities to quote they are most excellent—the two foremost literary critics in the United States. Every school teacher in the land looks up to Vanderwater as the Dean of American criticism. Yet I read his stuff, and it seems to me the perfection of the felicitous expression of the inane. Why, he is no more than a ponderous bromide, thanks to Gelett Burgess. And Praps is no better. His ‘Hemlock Mosses,’ for instance is beautifully written. Not a comma is out of place; and the tone—ah!—is lofty, so lofty. He is the best-paid critic in the United States. Though, Heaven forbid! he’s not a critic at all. They do criticism better in England.
“But the point is, they sound the popular note, and they sound it so beautifully and morally and contentedly. Their reviews remind me of a British Sunday. They are the popular mouthpieces. They back up your professors of English, and your professors of English back them up. And there isn’t an original idea in any of their skulls. They know only the established,—in fact, they are the established. They are weak minded, and the established impresses itself upon them as easily as the name of the brewery is impressed on a beer bottle. And their function is to catch all the young fellows attending the university, to drive out of their minds any glimmering originality that may chance to be there, and to put upon them the stamp of the established.”
“I think I am nearer the truth,” she replied, “when I stand by the established, than you are, raging around like an iconoclastic South Sea Islander.”
“It was the missionary who did the image breaking,” he laughed. “And unfortunately, all the missionaries are off among the heathen, so there are none left at home to break those old images, Mr. Vanderwater and Mr. Praps.”
“And the college professors, as well,” she added.
He shook his head emphatically. “No; the science professors should live. They’re really great. But it would be a good deed to break the heads of nine-tenths of the English professors—little, microscopic-minded parrots!”
Which was rather severe on the professors, but which to Ruth was blasphemy. She could not help but measure the professors, neat, scholarly, in fitting clothes, speaking in well-modulated voices, breathing of culture and refinement, with this almost indescribable young fellow whom somehow she loved, whose clothes never would fit him, whose heavy muscles told of damning toil, who grew excited when he talked, substituting abuse for calm statement and passionate utterance for cool self-possession. They at least earned good salaries and were—yes, she compelled herself to face it—were gentlemen; while he could not earn a penny, and he was not as they.
She did not weigh Martin’s words nor judge his argument by them. Her conclusion that his argument was wrong was reached—unconsciously, it is true—by a comparison of externals. They, the professors, were right in their literary judgments because they were successes. Martin’s literary judgments were wrong because he could not sell his wares. To use his own phrase, they made good, and he did not make good. And besides, it did not seem reasonable that he should be right—he who had stood, so short a time before, in that same living room, blushing and awkward, acknowledging his introduction, looking fearfully about him at the bric-a-brac his swinging shoulders threatened to break, asking how long since Swinburne died, and boastfully announcing that he had read “Excelsior” and the “Psalm of Life.”
Unwittingly, Ruth herself proved his point that she worshipped the established. Martin followed the processes of her thoughts, but forbore to go farther. He did not love her for what she thought of Praps and Vanderwater and English professors, and he was coming to realize, with increasing conviction, that he possessed brain-areas and stretches of knowledge which she could never comprehend nor know existed.
In music she thought him unreasonable, and in the matter of opera not only unreasonable but wilfully perverse.
“How did you like it?” she asked him one night, on the way home from the opera.
It was a night when he had taken her at the expense of a month’s rigid economizing on food. After vainly waiting for him to speak about it, herself still tremulous and stirred by what she had just seen and heard, she had asked the question.
“I liked the overture,” was his answer. “It was splendid.”
“Yes, but the opera itself?”
“That was splendid too; that is, the orchestra was, though I’d have enjoyed it more if those jumping-jacks had kept quiet or gone off the stage.”
Ruth was aghast.
“You don’t mean Tetralani or Barillo?” she queried.
“All of them—the whole kit and crew.”
“But they are great artists,” she protested.
“They spoiled the music just the same, with their antics and unrealities.”
“But don’t you like Barillo’s voice?” Ruth asked. “He is next to Caruso, they say.”
“Of course I liked him, and I liked Tetralani even better. Her voice is exquisite—or at least I think so.”
“But, but—” Ruth stammered. “I don’t know what you mean, then. You admire their voices, yet say they spoiled the music.”
“Precisely that. I’d give anything to hear them in concert, and I’d give even a bit more not to hear them when the orchestra is playing. I’m afraid I am a hopeless realist. Great singers are not great actors. To hear Barillo sing a love passage with the voice of an angel, and to hear Tetralani reply like another angel, and to hear it all accompanied by a perfect orgy of glowing and colorful music—is ravishing, most ravishing. I do not admit it. I assert it. But the whole effect is spoiled when I look at them—at Tetralani, five feet ten in her stocking feet and weighing a hundred and ninety pounds, and at Barillo, a scant five feet four, greasy-featured, with the chest of a squat, undersized blacksmith, and at the pair of them, attitudinizing, clasping their breasts, flinging their arms in the air like demented creatures in an asylum; and when I am expected to accept all this as the faithful illusion of a love-scene between a slender and beautiful princess and a handsome, romantic, young prince—why, I can’t accept it, that’s all. It’s rot; it’s absurd; it’s unreal. That’s what’s the matter with it. It’s not real. Don’t tell me that anybody in this world ever made love that way. Why, if I’d made love to you in such fashion, you’d have boxed my ears.”
“But you misunderstand,” Ruth protested. “Every form of art has its limitations.” (She was busy recalling a lecture she had heard at the university on the conventions of the arts.) “In painting there are only two dimensions to the canvas, yet you accept the illusion of three dimensions which the art of a painter enables him to throw into the canvas. In writing, again, the author must be omnipotent. You accept as perfectly legitimate the author’s account of the secret thoughts of the heroine, and yet all the time you know that the heroine was alone when thinking these thoughts, and that neither the author nor any one else was capable of hearing them. And so with the stage, with sculpture, with opera, with every art form. Certain irreconcilable things must be accepted.”
“Yes, I understood that,” Martin answered. “All the arts have their conventions.” (Ruth was surprised at his use of the word. It was as if he had studied at the university himself, instead of being ill-equipped from browsing at haphazard through the books in the library.) “But even the conventions must be real. Trees, painted on flat cardboard and stuck up on each side of the stage, we accept as a forest. It is a real enough convention. But, on the other hand, we would not accept a sea scene as a forest. We can’t do it. It violates our senses. Nor would you, or, rather, should you, accept the ravings and writhings and agonized contortions of those two lunatics to-night as a convincing portrayal of love.”
“But you don’t hold yourself superior to all the judges of music?” she protested.
“No, no, not for a moment. I merely maintain my right as an individual. I have just been telling you what I think, in order to explain why the elephantine gambols of Madame Tetralani spoil the orchestra for me. The world’s judges of music may all be right. But I am I, and I won’t subordinate my taste to the unanimous judgment of mankind. If I don’t like a thing, I don’t like it, that’s all; and there is no reason under the sun why I should ape a liking for it just because the majority of my fellow-creatures like it, or make believe they like it. I can’t follow the fashions in the things I like or dislike.”
“But music, you know, is a matter of training,” Ruth argued; “and opera is even more a matter of training. May it not be—”
“That I am not trained in opera?” he dashed in.
“The very thing,” he agreed. “And I consider I am fortunate in not having been caught when I was young. If I had, I could have wept sentimental tears to-night, and the clownish antics of that precious pair would have but enhanced the beauty of their voices and the beauty of the accompanying orchestra. You are right. It’s mostly a matter of training. And I am too old, now. I must have the real or nothing. An illusion that won’t convince is a palpable lie, and that’s what grand opera is to me when little Barillo throws a fit, clutches mighty Tetralani in his arms (also in a fit), and tells her how passionately he adores her.”
Again Ruth measured his thoughts by comparison of externals and in accordance with her belief in the established. Who was he that he should be right and all the cultured world wrong? His words and thoughts made no impression upon her. She was too firmly intrenched in the established to have any sympathy with revolutionary ideas. She had always been used to music, and she had enjoyed opera ever since she was a child, and all her world had enjoyed it, too. Then by what right did Martin Eden emerge, as he had so recently emerged, from his rag-time and working-class songs, and pass judgment on the world’s music? She was vexed with him, and as she walked beside him she had a vague feeling of outrage. At the best, in her most charitable frame of mind, she considered the statement of his views to be a caprice, an erratic and uncalled-for prank. But when he took her in his arms at the door and kissed her good night in tender lover-fashion, she forgot everything in the outrush of her own love to him. And later, on a sleepless pillow, she puzzled, as she had often puzzled of late, as to how it was that she loved so strange a man, and loved him despite the disapproval of her people.
And next day Martin Eden cast hack-work aside, and at white heat hammered out an essay to which he gave the title, “The Philosophy of Illusion.” A stamp started it on its travels, but it was destined to receive many stamps and to be started on many travels in the months that followed.