Part 5 out of 8
throw the bills on the floor and so escape paying them. No sooner
thought than done, and he crumpled the cuffs spitefully as he flung
them upon an unusually dirty floor. Ever the heap grew, and though
each bill was duplicated a thousand times, he found only one for
two dollars and a half, which was what he owed Maria. That meant
that Maria would not press for payment, and he resolved generously
that it would be the only one he would pay; so he began searching
through the cast-out heap for hers. He sought it desperately, for
ages, and was still searching when the manager of the hotel
entered, the fat Dutchman. His face blazed with wrath, and he
shouted in stentorian tones that echoed down the universe, "I shall
deduct the cost of those cuffs from your wages!" The pile of cuffs
grew into a mountain, and Martin knew that he was doomed to toil
for a thousand years to pay for them. Well, there was nothing left
to do but kill the manager and burn down the laundry. But the big
Dutchman frustrated him, seizing him by the nape of the neck and
dancing him up and down. He danced him over the ironing tables,
the stove, and the mangles, and out into the wash-room and over the
wringer and washer. Martin was danced until his teeth rattled and
his head ached, and he marvelled that the Dutchman was so strong.
And then he found himself before the mangle, this time receiving
the cuffs an editor of a magazine was feeding from the other side.
Each cuff was a check, and Martin went over them anxiously, in a
fever of expectation, but they were all blanks. He stood there and
received the blanks for a million years or so, never letting one go
by for fear it might be filled out. At last he found it. With
trembling fingers he held it to the light. It was for five
dollars. "Ha! Ha!" laughed the editor across the mangle. "Well,
then, I shall kill you," Martin said. He went out into the wash-
room to get the axe, and found Joe starching manuscripts. He tried
to make him desist, then swung the axe for him. But the weapon
remained poised in mid-air, for Martin found himself back in the
ironing room in the midst of a snow-storm. No, it was not snow
that was falling, but checks of large denomination, the smallest
not less than a thousand dollars. He began to collect them and
sort them out, in packages of a hundred, tying each package
securely with twine.
He looked up from his task and saw Joe standing before him juggling
flat-irons, starched shirts, and manuscripts. Now and again he
reached out and added a bundle of checks to the flying miscellany
that soared through the roof and out of sight in a tremendous
circle. Martin struck at him, but he seized the axe and added it
to the flying circle. Then he plucked Martin and added him.
Martin went up through the roof, clutching at manuscripts, so that
by the time he came down he had a large armful. But no sooner down
than up again, and a second and a third time and countless times he
flew around the circle. From far off he could hear a childish
treble singing: "Waltz me around again, Willie, around, around,
He recovered the axe in the midst of the Milky Way of checks,
starched shirts, and manuscripts, and prepared, when he came down,
to kill Joe. But he did not come down. Instead, at two in the
morning, Maria, having heard his groans through the thin partition,
came into his room, to put hot flat-irons against his body and damp
cloths upon his aching eyes.
Martin Eden did not go out to hunt for a job in the morning. It
was late afternoon before he came out of his delirium and gazed
with aching eyes about the room. Mary, one of the tribe of Silva,
eight years old, keeping watch, raised a screech at sight of his
returning consciousness. Maria hurried into the room from the
kitchen. She put her work-calloused hand upon his hot forehead and
felt his pulse.
"You lika da eat?" she asked.
He shook his head. Eating was farthest from his desire, and he
wondered that he should ever have been hungry in his life.
"I'm sick, Maria," he said weakly. "What is it? Do you know?"
"Grip," she answered. "Two or three days you alla da right.
Better you no eat now. Bimeby plenty can eat, to-morrow can eat
Martin was not used to sickness, and when Maria and her little girl
left him, he essayed to get up and dress. By a supreme exertion of
will, with rearing brain and eyes that ached so that he could not
keep them open, he managed to get out of bed, only to be left
stranded by his senses upon the table. Half an hour later he
managed to regain the bed, where he was content to lie with closed
eyes and analyze his various pains and weaknesses. Maria came in
several times to change the cold cloths on his forehead. Otherwise
she left him in peace, too wise to vex him with chatter. This
moved him to gratitude, and he murmured to himself, "Maria, you
getta da milka ranch, all righta, all right."
Then he remembered his long-buried past of yesterday.
It seemed a life-time since he had received that letter from the
TRANSCONTINENTAL, a life-time since it was all over and done with
and a new page turned. He had shot his bolt, and shot it hard, and
now he was down on his back. If he hadn't starved himself, he
wouldn't have been caught by La Grippe. He had been run down, and
he had not had the strength to throw off the germ of disease which
had invaded his system. This was what resulted.
"What does it profit a man to write a whole library and lose his
own life?" he demanded aloud. "This is no place for me. No more
literature in mine. Me for the counting-house and ledger, the
monthly salary, and the little home with Ruth."
Two days later, having eaten an egg and two slices of toast and
drunk a cup of tea, he asked for his mail, but found his eyes still
hurt too much to permit him to read.
"You read for me, Maria," he said. "Never mind the big, long
letters. Throw them under the table. Read me the small letters."
"No can," was the answer. "Teresa, she go to school, she can."
So Teresa Silva, aged nine, opened his letters and read them to
him. He listened absently to a long dun from the type-writer
people, his mind busy with ways and means of finding a job.
Suddenly he was shocked back to himself.
"'We offer you forty dollars for all serial rights in your story,'"
Teresa slowly spelled out, "'provided you allow us to make the
"What magazine is that?" Martin shouted. "Here, give it to me!"
He could see to read, now, and he was unaware of the pain of the
action. It was the WHITE MOUSE that was offering him forty
dollars, and the story was "The Whirlpool," another of his early
horror stories. He read the letter through again and again. The
editor told him plainly that he had not handled the idea properly,
but that it was the idea they were buying because it was original.
If they could cut the story down one-third, they would take it and
send him forty dollars on receipt of his answer.
He called for pen and ink, and told the editor he could cut the
story down three-thirds if he wanted to, and to send the forty
dollars right along.
The letter despatched to the letter-box by Teresa, Martin lay back
and thought. It wasn't a lie, after all. The WHITE MOUSE paid on
acceptance. There were three thousand words in "The Whirlpool."
Cut down a third, there would be two thousand. At forty dollars
that would be two cents a word. Pay on acceptance and two cents a
word - the newspapers had told the truth. And he had thought the
WHITE MOUSE a third-rater! It was evident that he did not know the
magazines. He had deemed the TRANSCONTINENTAL a first-rater, and
it paid a cent for ten words. He had classed the WHITE MOUSE as of
no account, and it paid twenty times as much as the
TRANSCONTINENTAL and also had paid on acceptance.
Well, there was one thing certain: when he got well, he would not
go out looking for a job. There were more stories in his head as
good as "The Whirlpool," and at forty dollars apiece he could earn
far more than in any job or position. Just when he thought the
battle lost, it was won. He had proved for his career. The way
was clear. Beginning with the WHITE MOUSE he would add magazine
after magazine to his growing list of patrons. Hack-work could be
put aside. For that matter, it had been wasted time, for it had
not brought him a dollar. He would devote himself to work, good
work, and he would pour out the best that was in him. He wished
Ruth was there to share in his joy, and when he went over the
letters left lying on his bed, he found one from her. It was
sweetly reproachful, wondering what had kept him away for so
dreadful a length of time. He reread the letter adoringly,
dwelling over her handwriting, loving each stroke of her pen, and
in the end kissing her signature.
And when he answered, he told her recklessly that he had not been
to see her because his best clothes were in pawn. He told her that
he had been sick, but was once more nearly well, and that inside
ten days or two weeks (as soon as a letter could travel to New York
City and return) he would redeem his clothes and be with her.
But Ruth did not care to wait ten days or two weeks. Besides, her
lover was sick. The next afternoon, accompanied by Arthur, she
arrived in the Morse carriage, to the unqualified delight of the
Silva tribe and of all the urchins on the street, and to the
consternation of Maria. She boxed the ears of the Silvas who
crowded about the visitors on the tiny front porch, and in more
than usual atrocious English tried to apologize for her appearance.
Sleeves rolled up from soap-flecked arms and a wet gunny-sack
around her waist told of the task at which she had been caught. So
flustered was she by two such grand young people asking for her
lodger, that she forgot to invite them to sit down in the little
parlor. To enter Martin's room, they passed through the kitchen,
warm and moist and steamy from the big washing in progress. Maria,
in her excitement, jammed the bedroom and bedroom-closet doors
together, and for five minutes, through the partly open door,
clouds of steam, smelling of soap-suds and dirt, poured into the
Ruth succeeded in veering right and left and right again, and in
running the narrow passage between table and bed to Martin's side;
but Arthur veered too wide and fetched up with clatter and bang of
pots and pans in the corner where Martin did his cooking. Arthur
did not linger long. Ruth occupied the only chair, and having done
his duty, he went outside and stood by the gate, the centre of
seven marvelling Silvas, who watched him as they would have watched
a curiosity in a side-show. All about the carriage were gathered
the children from a dozen blocks, waiting and eager for some tragic
and terrible denouement. Carriages were seen on their street only
for weddings and funerals. Here was neither marriage nor death:
therefore, it was something transcending experience and well worth
Martin had been wild to see Ruth. His was essentially a love-
nature, and he possessed more than the average man's need for
sympathy. He was starving for sympathy, which, with him, meant
intelligent understanding; and he had yet to learn that Ruth's
sympathy was largely sentimental and tactful, and that it proceeded
from gentleness of nature rather than from understanding of the
objects of her sympathy. So it was while Martin held her hand and
gladly talked, that her love for him prompted her to press his hand
in return, and that her eyes were moist and luminous at sight of
his helplessness and of the marks suffering had stamped upon his
But while he told her of his two acceptances, of his despair when
he received the one from the TRANSCONTINENTAL, and of the
corresponding delight with which he received the one from the WHITE
MOUSE, she did not follow him. She heard the words he uttered and
understood their literal import, but she was not with him in his
despair and his delight. She could not get out of herself. She
was not interested in selling stories to magazines. What was
important to her was matrimony. She was not aware of it, however,
any more than she was aware that her desire that Martin take a
position was the instinctive and preparative impulse of motherhood.
She would have blushed had she been told as much in plain, set
terms, and next, she might have grown indignant and asserted that
her sole interest lay in the man she loved and her desire for him
to make the best of himself. So, while Martin poured out his heart
to her, elated with the first success his chosen work in the world
had received, she paid heed to his bare words only, gazing now and
again about the room, shocked by what she saw.
For the first time Ruth gazed upon the sordid face of poverty.
Starving lovers had always seemed romantic to her, - but she had
had no idea how starving lovers lived. She had never dreamed it
could be like this. Ever her gaze shifted from the room to him and
back again. The steamy smell of dirty clothes, which had entered
with her from the kitchen, was sickening. Martin must be soaked
with it, Ruth concluded, if that awful woman washed frequently.
Such was the contagiousness of degradation. When she looked at
Martin, she seemed to see the smirch left upon him by his
surroundings. She had never seen him unshaven, and the three days'
growth of beard on his face was repulsive to her. Not alone did it
give him the same dark and murky aspect of the Silva house, inside
and out, but it seemed to emphasize that animal-like strength of
his which she detested. And here he was, being confirmed in his
madness by the two acceptances he took such pride in telling her
about. A little longer and he would have surrendered and gone to
work. Now he would continue on in this horrible house, writing and
starving for a few more months.
"What is that smell?" she asked suddenly.
"Some of Maria's washing smells, I imagine," was the answer. "I am
growing quite accustomed to them."
"No, no; not that. It is something else. A stale, sickish smell."
Martin sampled the air before replying.
"I can't smell anything else, except stale tobacco smoke," he
"That's it. It is terrible. Why do you smoke so much, Martin?"
"I don't know, except that I smoke more than usual when I am
lonely. And then, too, it's such a long-standing habit. I learned
when I was only a youngster."
"It is not a nice habit, you know," she reproved. "It smells to
"That's the fault of the tobacco. I can afford only the cheapest.
But wait until I get that forty-dollar check. I'll use a brand
that is not offensive even to the angels. But that wasn't so bad,
was it, two acceptances in three days? That forty-five dollars
will pay about all my debts."
"For two years' work?" she queried.
"No, for less than a week's work. Please pass me that book over on
the far corner of the table, the account book with the gray cover."
He opened it and began turning over the pages rapidly. "Yes, I was
right. Four days for 'The Ring of Bells,' two days for 'The
Whirlpool.' That's forty-five dollars for a week's work, one
hundred and eighty dollars a month. That beats any salary I can
command. And, besides, I'm just beginning. A thousand dollars a
month is not too much to buy for you all I want you to have. A
salary of five hundred a month would be too small. That forty-five
dollars is just a starter. Wait till I get my stride. Then watch
Ruth misunderstood his slang, and reverted to cigarettes.
"You smoke more than enough as it is, and the brand of tobacco will
make no difference. It is the smoking itself that is not nice, no
matter what the brand may be. You are a chimney, a living volcano,
a perambulating smoke-stack, and you are a perfect disgrace, Martin
dear, you know you are."
She leaned toward him, entreaty in her eyes, and as he looked at
her delicate face and into her pure, limpid eyes, as of old he was
struck with his own unworthiness.
"I wish you wouldn't smoke any more," she whispered. "Please, for
- my sake."
"All right, I won't," he cried. "I'll do anything you ask, dear
love, anything; you know that."
A great temptation assailed her. In an insistent way she had
caught glimpses of the large, easy-going side of his nature, and
she felt sure, if she asked him to cease attempting to write, that
he would grant her wish. In the swift instant that elapsed, the
words trembled on her lips. But she did not utter them. She was
not quite brave enough; she did not quite dare. Instead, she
leaned toward him to meet him, and in his arms murmured:-
"You know, it is really not for my sake, Martin, but for your own.
I am sure smoking hurts you; and besides, it is not good to be a
slave to anything, to a drug least of all."
"I shall always be your slave," he smiled.
"In which case, I shall begin issuing my commands."
She looked at him mischievously, though deep down she was already
regretting that she had not preferred her largest request.
"I live but to obey, your majesty."
"Well, then, my first commandment is, Thou shalt not omit to shave
every day. Look how you have scratched my cheek."
And so it ended in caresses and love-laughter. But she had made
one point, and she could not expect to make more than one at a
time. She felt a woman's pride in that she had made him stop
smoking. Another time she would persuade him to take a position,
for had he not said he would do anything she asked?
She left his side to explore the room, examining the clothes-lines
of notes overhead, learning the mystery of the tackle used for
suspending his wheel under the ceiling, and being saddened by the
heap of manuscripts under the table which represented to her just
so much wasted time. The oil-stove won her admiration, but on
investigating the food shelves she found them empty.
"Why, you haven't anything to eat, you poor dear," she said with
tender compassion. "You must be starving."
"I store my food in Maria's safe and in her pantry," he lied. "It
keeps better there. No danger of my starving. Look at that."
She had come back to his side, and she saw him double his arm at
the elbow, the biceps crawling under his shirt-sleeve and swelling
into a knot of muscle, heavy and hard. The sight repelled her.
Sentimentally, she disliked it. But her pulse, her blood, every
fibre of her, loved it and yearned for it, and, in the old,
inexplicable way, she leaned toward him, not away from him. And in
the moment that followed, when he crushed her in his arms, the
brain of her, concerned with the superficial aspects of life, was
in revolt; while the heart of her, the woman of her, concerned with
life itself, exulted triumphantly. It was in moments like this
that she felt to the uttermost the greatness of her love for
Martin, for it was almost a swoon of delight to her to feel his
strong arms about her, holding her tightly, hurting her with the
grip of their fervor. At such moments she found justification for
her treason to her standards, for her violation of her own high
ideals, and, most of all, for her tacit disobedience to her mother
and father. They did not want her to marry this man. It shocked
them that she should love him. It shocked her, too, sometimes,
when she was apart from him, a cool and reasoning creature. With
him, she loved him - in truth, at times a vexed and worried love;
but love it was, a love that was stronger than she.
"This La Grippe is nothing," he was saying. "It hurts a bit, and
gives one a nasty headache, but it doesn't compare with break-bone
"Have you had that, too?" she queried absently, intent on the
heaven-sent justification she was finding in his arms.
And so, with absent queries, she led him on, till suddenly his
words startled her.
He had had the fever in a secret colony of thirty lepers on one of
the Hawaiian Islands.
"But why did you go there?" she demanded.
Such royal carelessness of body seemed criminal.
"Because I didn't know," he answered. "I never dreamed of lepers.
When I deserted the schooner and landed on the beach, I headed
inland for some place of hiding. For three days I lived off
guavas, OHIA-apples, and bananas, all of which grew wild in the
jungle. On the fourth day I found the trail - a mere foot-trail.
It led inland, and it led up. It was the way I wanted to go, and
it showed signs of recent travel. At one place it ran along the
crest of a ridge that was no more than a knife-edge. The trail
wasn't three feet wide on the crest, and on either side the ridge
fell away in precipices hundreds of feet deep. One man, with
plenty of ammunition, could have held it against a hundred
"It was the only way in to the hiding-place. Three hours after I
found the trail I was there, in a little mountain valley, a pocket
in the midst of lava peaks. The whole place was terraced for taro-
patches, fruit trees grew there, and there were eight or ten grass
huts. But as soon as I saw the inhabitants I knew what I'd struck.
One sight of them was enough."
"What did you do?" Ruth demanded breathlessly, listening, like any
Desdemona, appalled and fascinated.
"Nothing for me to do. Their leader was a kind old fellow, pretty
far gone, but he ruled like a king. He had discovered the little
valley and founded the settlement - all of which was against the
law. But he had guns, plenty of ammunition, and those Kanakas,
trained to the shooting of wild cattle and wild pig, were dead
shots. No, there wasn't any running away for Martin Eden. He
stayed - for three months."
"But how did you escape?"
"I'd have been there yet, if it hadn't been for a girl there, a
half-Chinese, quarter-white, and quarter-Hawaiian. She was a
beauty, poor thing, and well educated. Her mother, in Honolulu,
was worth a million or so. Well, this girl got me away at last.
Her mother financed the settlement, you see, so the girl wasn't
afraid of being punished for letting me go. But she made me swear,
first, never to reveal the hiding-place; and I never have. This is
the first time I have even mentioned it. The girl had just the
first signs of leprosy. The fingers of her right hand were
slightly twisted, and there was a small spot on her arm. That was
all. I guess she is dead, now."
"But weren't you frightened? And weren't you glad to get away
without catching that dreadful disease?"
"Well," he confessed, "I was a bit shivery at first; but I got used
to it. I used to feel sorry for that poor girl, though. That made
me forget to be afraid. She was such a beauty, in spirit as well
as in appearance, and she was only slightly touched; yet she was
doomed to lie there, living the life of a primitive savage and
rotting slowly away. Leprosy is far more terrible than you can
"Poor thing," Ruth murmured softly. "It's a wonder she let you get
"How do you mean?" Martin asked unwittingly.
"Because she must have loved you," Ruth said, still softly.
"Candidly, now, didn't she?"
Martin's sunburn had been bleached by his work in the laundry and
by the indoor life he was living, while the hunger and the sickness
had made his face even pale; and across this pallor flowed the slow
wave of a blush. He was opening his mouth to speak, but Ruth shut
"Never mind, don't answer; it's not necessary," she laughed.
But it seemed to him there was something metallic in her laughter,
and that the light in her eyes was cold. On the spur of the moment
it reminded him of a gale he had once experienced in the North
Pacific. And for the moment the apparition of the gale rose before
his eyes - a gale at night, with a clear sky and under a full moon,
the huge seas glinting coldly in the moonlight. Next, he saw the
girl in the leper refuge and remembered it was for love of him that
she had let him go.
"She was noble," he said simply. "She gave me life."
That was all of the incident, but he heard Ruth muffle a dry sob in
her throat, and noticed that she turned her face away to gaze out
of the window. When she turned it back to him, it was composed,
and there was no hint of the gale in her eyes.
"I'm such a silly," she said plaintively. "But I can't help it. I
do so love you, Martin, I do, I do. I shall grow more catholic in
time, but at present I can't help being jealous of those ghosts of
the past, and you know your past is full of ghosts."
"It must be," she silenced his protest. "It could not be
otherwise. And there's poor Arthur motioning me to come. He's
tired waiting. And now good-by, dear."
"There's some kind of a mixture, put up by the druggists, that
helps men to stop the use of tobacco," she called back from the
door, "and I am going to send you some."
The door closed, but opened again.
"I do, I do," she whispered to him; and this time she was really
Maria, with worshipful eyes that none the less were keen to note
the texture of Ruth's garments and the cut of them (a cut unknown
that produced an effect mysteriously beautiful), saw her to the
carriage. The crowd of disappointed urchins stared till the
carriage disappeared from view, then transferred their stare to
Maria, who had abruptly become the most important person on the
street. But it was one of her progeny who blasted Maria's
reputation by announcing that the grand visitors had been for her
lodger. After that Maria dropped back into her old obscurity and
Martin began to notice the respectful manner in which he was
regarded by the small fry of the neighborhood. As for Maria,
Martin rose in her estimation a full hundred per cent, and had the
Portuguese grocer witnessed that afternoon carriage-call he would
have allowed Martin an additional three-dollars-and-eighty-five-
cents' worth of credit.
The sun of Martin's good fortune rose. The day after Ruth's visit,
he received a check for three dollars from a New York scandal
weekly in payment for three of his triolets. Two days later a
newspaper published in Chicago accepted his "Treasure Hunters,"
promising to pay ten dollars for it on publication. The price was
small, but it was the first article he had written, his very first
attempt to express his thought on the printed page. To cap
everything, the adventure serial for boys, his second attempt, was
accepted before the end of the week by a juvenile monthly calling
itself YOUTH AND AGE. It was true the serial was twenty-one
thousand words, and they offered to pay him sixteen dollars on
publication, which was something like seventy-five cents a thousand
words; but it was equally true that it was the second thing he had
attempted to write and that he was himself thoroughly aware of its
But even his earliest efforts were not marked with the clumsiness
of mediocrity. What characterized them was the clumsiness of too
great strength - the clumsiness which the tyro betrays when he
crushes butterflies with battering rams and hammers out vignettes
with a war-club. So it was that Martin was glad to sell his early
efforts for songs. He knew them for what they were, and it had not
taken him long to acquire this knowledge. What he pinned his faith
to was his later work. He had striven to be something more than a
mere writer of magazine fiction. He had sought to equip himself
with the tools of artistry. On the other hand, he had not
sacrificed strength. His conscious aim had been to increase his
strength by avoiding excess of strength. Nor had he departed from
his love of reality. His work was realism, though he had
endeavored to fuse with it the fancies and beauties of imagination.
What he sought was an impassioned realism, shot through with human
aspiration and faith. What he wanted was life as it was, with all
its spirit-groping and soul-reaching left in.
He had discovered, in the course of his reading, two schools of
fiction. One treated of man as a god, ignoring his earthly origin;
the other treated of man as a clod, ignoring his heaven-sent dreams
and divine possibilities. Both the god and the clod schools erred,
in Martin's estimation, and erred through too great singleness of
sight and purpose. There was a compromise that approximated the
truth, though it flattered not the school of god, while it
challenged the brute-savageness of the school of clod. It was his
story, "Adventure," which had dragged with Ruth, that Martin
believed had achieved his ideal of the true in fiction; and it was
in an essay, "God and Clod," that he had expressed his views on the
whole general subject.
But "Adventure," and all that he deemed his best work, still went
begging among the editors. His early work counted for nothing in
his eyes except for the money it brought, and his horror stories,
two of which he had sold, he did not consider high work nor his
best work. To him they were frankly imaginative and fantastic,
though invested with all the glamour of the real, wherein lay their
power. This investiture of the grotesque and impossible with
reality, he looked upon as a trick - a skilful trick at best.
Great literature could not reside in such a field. Their artistry
was high, but he denied the worthwhileness of artistry when
divorced from humanness. The trick had been to fling over the face
of his artistry a mask of humanness, and this he had done in the
half-dozen or so stories of the horror brand he had written before
he emerged upon the high peaks of "Adventure," "Joy," "The Pot,"
and "The Wine of Life."
The three dollars he received for the triolets he used to eke out a
precarious existence against the arrival of the WHITE MOUSE check.
He cashed the first check with the suspicious Portuguese grocer,
paying a dollar on account and dividing the remaining two dollars
between the baker and the fruit store. Martin was not yet rich
enough to afford meat, and he was on slim allowance when the WHITE
MOUSE check arrived. He was divided on the cashing of it. He had
never been in a bank in his life, much less been in one on
business, and he had a naive and childlike desire to walk into one
of the big banks down in Oakland and fling down his indorsed check
for forty dollars. On the other hand, practical common sense ruled
that he should cash it with his grocer and thereby make an
impression that would later result in an increase of credit.
Reluctantly Martin yielded to the claims of the grocer, paying his
bill with him in full, and receiving in change a pocketful of
jingling coin. Also, he paid the other tradesmen in full, redeemed
his suit and his bicycle, paid one month's rent on the type-writer,
and paid Maria the overdue month for his room and a month in
advance. This left him in his pocket, for emergencies, a balance
of nearly three dollars.
In itself, this small sum seemed a fortune. Immediately on
recovering his clothes he had gone to see Ruth, and on the way he
could not refrain from jingling the little handful of silver in his
pocket. He had been so long without money that, like a rescued
starving man who cannot let the unconsumed food out of his sight,
Martin could not keep his hand off the silver. He was not mean,
nor avaricious, but the money meant more than so many dollars and
cents. It stood for success, and the eagles stamped upon the coins
were to him so many winged victories.
It came to him insensibly that it was a very good world. It
certainly appeared more beautiful to him. For weeks it had been a
very dull and sombre world; but now, with nearly all debts paid,
three dollars jingling in his pocket, and in his mind the
consciousness of success, the sun shone bright and warm, and even a
rain-squall that soaked unprepared pedestrians seemed a merry
happening to him. When he starved, his thoughts had dwelt often
upon the thousands he knew were starving the world over; but now
that he was feasted full, the fact of the thousands starving was no
longer pregnant in his brain. He forgot about them, and, being in
love, remembered the countless lovers in the world. Without
deliberately thinking about it, MOTIFS for love-lyrics began to
agitate his brain. Swept away by the creative impulse, he got off
the electric car, without vexation, two blocks beyond his crossing.
He found a number of persons in the Morse home. Ruth's two girl-
cousins were visiting her from San Rafael, and Mrs. Morse, under
pretext of entertaining them, was pursuing her plan of surrounding
Ruth with young people. The campaign had begun during Martin's
enforced absence, and was already in full swing. She was making a
point of having at the house men who were doing things. Thus, in
addition to the cousins Dorothy and Florence, Martin encountered
two university professors, one of Latin, the other of English; a
young army officer just back from the Philippines, one-time school-
mate of Ruth's; a young fellow named Melville, private secretary to
Joseph Perkins, head of the San Francisco Trust Company; and
finally of the men, a live bank cashier, Charles Hapgood, a
youngish man of thirty-five, graduate of Stanford University,
member of the Nile Club and the Unity Club, and a conservative
speaker for the Republican Party during campaigns - in short, a
rising young man in every way. Among the women was one who painted
portraits, another who was a professional musician, and still
another who possessed the degree of Doctor of Sociology and who was
locally famous for her social settlement work in the slums of San
Francisco. But the women did not count for much in Mrs. Morse's
plan. At the best, they were necessary accessories. The men who
did things must be drawn to the house somehow.
"Don't get excited when you talk," Ruth admonished Martin, before
the ordeal of introduction began.
He bore himself a bit stiffly at first, oppressed by a sense of his
own awkwardness, especially of his shoulders, which were up to
their old trick of threatening destruction to furniture and
ornaments. Also, he was rendered self-conscious by the company.
He had never before been in contact with such exalted beings nor
with so many of them. Melville, the bank cashier, fascinated him,
and he resolved to investigate him at the first opportunity. For
underneath Martin's awe lurked his assertive ego, and he felt the
urge to measure himself with these men and women and to find out
what they had learned from the books and life which he had not
Ruth's eyes roved to him frequently to see how he was getting on,
and she was surprised and gladdened by the ease with which he got
acquainted with her cousins. He certainly did not grow excited,
while being seated removed from him the worry of his shoulders.
Ruth knew them for clever girls, superficially brilliant, and she
could scarcely understand their praise of Martin later that night
at going to bed. But he, on the other hand, a wit in his own
class, a gay quizzer and laughter-maker at dances and Sunday
picnics, had found the making of fun and the breaking of good-
natured lances simple enough in this environment. And on this
evening success stood at his back, patting him on the shoulder and
telling him that he was making good, so that he could afford to
laugh and make laughter and remain unabashed.
Later, Ruth's anxiety found justification. Martin and Professor
Caldwell had got together in a conspicuous corner, and though
Martin no longer wove the air with his hands, to Ruth's critical
eye he permitted his own eyes to flash and glitter too frequently,
talked too rapidly and warmly, grew too intense, and allowed his
aroused blood to redden his cheeks too much. He lacked decorum and
control, and was in decided contrast to the young professor of
English with whom he talked.
But Martin was not concerned with appearances! He had been swift
to note the other's trained mind and to appreciate his command of
knowledge. Furthermore, Professor Caldwell did not realize
Martin's concept of the average English professor. Martin wanted
him to talk shop, and, though he seemed averse at first, succeeded
in making him do it. For Martin did not see why a man should not
"It's absurd and unfair," he had told Ruth weeks before, "this
objection to talking shop. For what reason under the sun do men
and women come together if not for the exchange of the best that is
in them? And the best that is in them is what they are interested
in, the thing by which they make their living, the thing they've
specialized on and sat up days and nights over, and even dreamed
about. Imagine Mr. Butler living up to social etiquette and
enunciating his views on Paul Verlaine or the German drama or the
novels of D'Annunzio. We'd be bored to death. I, for one, if I
must listen to Mr. Butler, prefer to hear him talk about his law.
It's the best that is in him, and life is so short that I want the
best of every man and woman I meet."
"But," Ruth had objected, "there are the topics of general interest
"There, you mistake," he had rushed on. "All persons in society,
all cliques in society - or, rather, nearly all persons and cliques
- ape their betters. Now, who are the best betters? The idlers,
the wealthy idlers. They do not know, as a rule, the things known
by the persons who are doing something in the world. To listen to
conversation about such things would mean to be bored, wherefore
the idlers decree that such things are shop and must not be talked
about. Likewise they decree the things that are not shop and which
may be talked about, and those things are the latest operas, latest
novels, cards, billiards, cocktails, automobiles, horse shows,
trout fishing, tuna-fishing, big-game shooting, yacht sailing, and
so forth - and mark you, these are the things the idlers know. In
all truth, they constitute the shop-talk of the idlers. And the
funniest part of it is that many of the clever people, and all the
would-be clever people, allow the idlers so to impose upon them.
As for me, I want the best a man's got in him, call it shop
vulgarity or anything you please."
And Ruth had not understood. This attack of his on the established
had seemed to her just so much wilfulness of opinion.
So Martin contaminated Professor Caldwell with his own earnestness,
challenging him to speak his mind. As Ruth paused beside them she
heard Martin saying:-
"You surely don't pronounce such heresies in the University of
Professor Caldwell shrugged his shoulders. "The honest taxpayer
and the politician, you know. Sacramento gives us our
appropriations and therefore we kowtow to Sacramento, and to the
Board of Regents, and to the party press, or to the press of both
"Yes, that's clear; but how about you?" Martin urged. "You must be
a fish out of the water."
"Few like me, I imagine, in the university pond. Sometimes I am
fairly sure I am out of water, and that I should belong in Paris,
in Grub Street, in a hermit's cave, or in some sadly wild Bohemian
crowd, drinking claret, - dago-red they call it in San Francisco, -
dining in cheap restaurants in the Latin Quarter, and expressing
vociferously radical views upon all creation. Really, I am
frequently almost sure that I was cut out to be a radical. But
then, there are so many questions on which I am not sure. I grow
timid when I am face to face with my human frailty, which ever
prevents me from grasping all the factors in any problem - human,
vital problems, you know."
And as he talked on, Martin became aware that to his own lips had
come the "Song of the Trade Wind":-
"I am strongest at noon,
But under the moon
I stiffen the bunt of the sail."
He was almost humming the words, and it dawned upon him that the
other reminded him of the trade wind, of the Northeast Trade,
steady, and cool, and strong. He was equable, he was to be relied
upon, and withal there was a certain bafflement about him. Martin
had the feeling that he never spoke his full mind, just as he had
often had the feeling that the trades never blew their strongest
but always held reserves of strength that were never used.
Martin's trick of visioning was active as ever. His brain was a
most accessible storehouse of remembered fact and fancy, and its
contents seemed ever ordered and spread for his inspection.
Whatever occurred in the instant present, Martin's mind immediately
presented associated antithesis or similitude which ordinarily
expressed themselves to him in vision. It was sheerly automatic,
and his visioning was an unfailing accompaniment to the living
present. Just as Ruth's face, in a momentary jealousy had called
before his eyes a forgotten moonlight gale, and as Professor
Caldwell made him see again the Northeast Trade herding the white
billows across the purple sea, so, from moment to moment, not
disconcerting but rather identifying and classifying, new memory-
visions rose before him, or spread under his eyelids, or were
thrown upon the screen of his consciousness. These visions came
out of the actions and sensations of the past, out of things and
events and books of yesterday and last week - a countless host of
apparitions that, waking or sleeping, forever thronged his mind.
So it was, as he listened to Professor Caldwell's easy flow of
speech - the conversation of a clever, cultured man - that Martin
kept seeing himself down all his past. He saw himself when he had
been quite the hoodlum, wearing a "stiff-rim" Stetson hat and a
square-cut, double-breasted coat, with a certain swagger to the
shoulders and possessing the ideal of being as tough as the police
permitted. He did not disguise it to himself, nor attempt to
palliate it. At one time in his life he had been just a common
hoodlum, the leader of a gang that worried the police and
terrorized honest, working-class householders. But his ideals had
changed. He glanced about him at the well-bred, well-dressed men
and women, and breathed into his lungs the atmosphere of culture
and refinement, and at the same moment the ghost of his early
youth, in stiff-rim and square-cut, with swagger and toughness,
stalked across the room. This figure, of the corner hoodlum, he
saw merge into himself, sitting and talking with an actual
For, after all, he had never found his permanent abiding place. He
had fitted in wherever he found himself, been a favorite always and
everywhere by virtue of holding his own at work and at play and by
his willingness and ability to fight for his rights and command
respect. But he had never taken root. He had fitted in
sufficiently to satisfy his fellows but not to satisfy himself. He
had been perturbed always by a feeling of unrest, had heard always
the call of something from beyond, and had wandered on through life
seeking it until he found books and art and love. And here he was,
in the midst of all this, the only one of all the comrades he had
adventured with who could have made themselves eligible for the
inside of the Morse home.
But such thoughts and visions did not prevent him from following
Professor Caldwell closely. And as he followed, comprehendingly
and critically, he noted the unbroken field of the other's
knowledge. As for himself, from moment to moment the conversation
showed him gaps and open stretches, whole subjects with which he
was unfamiliar. Nevertheless, thanks to his Spencer, he saw that
he possessed the outlines of the field of knowledge. It was a
matter only of time, when he would fill in the outline. Then watch
out, he thought - 'ware shoal, everybody! He felt like sitting at
the feet of the professor, worshipful and absorbent; but, as he
listened, he began to discern a weakness in the other's judgments -
a weakness so stray and elusive that he might not have caught it
had it not been ever present. And when he did catch it, he leapt
to equality at once.
Ruth came up to them a second time, just as Martin began to speak.
"I'll tell you where you are wrong, or, rather, what weakens your
judgments," he said. "You lack biology. It has no place in your
scheme of things. - Oh, I mean the real interpretative biology,
from the ground up, from the laboratory and the test-tube and the
vitalized inorganic right on up to the widest aesthetic and
Ruth was appalled. She had sat two lecture courses under Professor
Caldwell and looked up to him as the living repository of all
"I scarcely follow you," he said dubiously.
Martin was not so sure but what he had followed him.
"Then I'll try to explain," he said. "I remember reading in
Egyptian history something to the effect that understanding could
not be had of Egyptian art without first studying the land
"Quite right," the professor nodded.
"And it seems to me," Martin continued, "that knowledge of the land
question, in turn, of all questions, for that matter, cannot be had
without previous knowledge of the stuff and the constitution of
life. How can we understand laws and institutions, religions and
customs, without understanding, not merely the nature of the
creatures that made them, but the nature of the stuff out of which
the creatures are made? Is literature less human than the
architecture and sculpture of Egypt? Is there one thing in the
known universe that is not subject to the law of evolution? - Oh, I
know there is an elaborate evolution of the various arts laid down,
but it seems to me to be too mechanical. The human himself is left
out. The evolution of the tool, of the harp, of music and song and
dance, are all beautifully elaborated; but how about the evolution
of the human himself, the development of the basic and intrinsic
parts that were in him before he made his first tool or gibbered
his first chant? It is that which you do not consider, and which I
call biology. It is biology in its largest aspects.
"I know I express myself incoherently, but I've tried to hammer out
the idea. It came to me as you were talking, so I was not primed
and ready to deliver it. You spoke yourself of the human frailty
that prevented one from taking all the factors into consideration.
And you, in turn, - or so it seems to me, - leave out the
biological factor, the very stuff out of which has been spun the
fabric of all the arts, the warp and the woof of all human actions
To Ruth's amazement, Martin was not immediately crushed, and that
the professor replied in the way he did struck her as forbearance
for Martin's youth. Professor Caldwell sat for a full minute,
silent and fingering his watch chain.
"Do you know," he said at last, "I've had that same criticism
passed on me once before - by a very great man, a scientist and
evolutionist, Joseph Le Conte. But he is dead, and I thought to
remain undetected; and now you come along and expose me.
Seriously, though - and this is confession - I think there is
something in your contention - a great deal, in fact. I am too
classical, not enough up-to-date in the interpretative branches of
science, and I can only plead the disadvantages of my education and
a temperamental slothfulness that prevents me from doing the work.
I wonder if you'll believe that I've never been inside a physics or
chemistry laboratory? It is true, nevertheless. Le Conte was
right, and so are you, Mr. Eden, at least to an extent - how much I
do not know."
Ruth drew Martin away with her on a pretext; when she had got him
"You shouldn't have monopolized Professor Caldwell that way. There
may be others who want to talk with him."
"My mistake," Martin admitted contritely. "But I'd got him stirred
up, and he was so interesting that I did not think. Do you know,
he is the brightest, the most intellectual, man I have ever talked
with. And I'll tell you something else. I once thought that
everybody who went to universities, or who sat in the high places
in society, was just as brilliant and intelligent as he."
"He's an exception," she answered.
"I should say so. Whom do you want me to talk to now? - Oh, say,
bring me up against that cashier-fellow."
Martin talked for fifteen minutes with him, nor could Ruth have
wished better behavior on her lover's part. Not once did his eyes
flash nor his cheeks flush, while the calmness and poise with which
he talked surprised her. But in Martin's estimation the whole
tribe of bank cashiers fell a few hundred per cent, and for the
rest of the evening he labored under the impression that bank
cashiers and talkers of platitudes were synonymous phrases. The
army officer he found good-natured and simple, a healthy, wholesome
young fellow, content to occupy the place in life into which birth
and luck had flung him. On learning that he had completed two
years in the university, Martin was puzzled to know where he had
stored it away. Nevertheless Martin liked him better than the
platitudinous bank cashier.
"I really don't object to platitudes," he told Ruth later; "but
what worries me into nervousness is the pompous, smugly complacent,
superior certitude with which they are uttered and the time taken
to do it. Why, I could give that man the whole history of the
Reformation in the time he took to tell me that the Union-Labor
Party had fused with the Democrats. Do you know, he skins his
words as a professional poker-player skins the cards that are dealt
out to him. Some day I'll show you what I mean."
"I'm sorry you don't like him," was her reply. "He's a favorite of
Mr. Butler's. Mr. Butler says he is safe and honest - calls him
the Rock, Peter, and says that upon him any banking institution can
well be built."
"I don't doubt it - from the little I saw of him and the less I
heard from him; but I don't think so much of banks as I did. You
don't mind my speaking my mind this way, dear?"
"No, no; it is most interesting."
"Yes," Martin went on heartily, "I'm no more than a barbarian
getting my first impressions of civilization. Such impressions
must be entertainingly novel to the civilized person."
"What did you think of my cousins?" Ruth queried.
"I liked them better than the other women. There's plenty of fun
in them along with paucity of pretence."
"Then you did like the other women?"
He shook his head.
"That social-settlement woman is no more than a sociological poll-
parrot. I swear, if you winnowed her out between the stars, like
Tomlinson, there would be found in her not one original thought.
As for the portrait-painter, she was a positive bore. She'd make a
good wife for the cashier. And the musician woman! I don't care
how nimble her fingers are, how perfect her technique, how
wonderful her expression - the fact is, she knows nothing about
"She plays beautifully," Ruth protested.
"Yes, she's undoubtedly gymnastic in the externals of music, but
the intrinsic spirit of music is unguessed by her. I asked her
what music meant to her - you know I'm always curious to know that
particular thing; and she did not know what it meant to her, except
that she adored it, that it was the greatest of the arts, and that
it meant more than life to her."
"You were making them talk shop," Ruth charged him.
"I confess it. And if they were failures on shop, imagine my
sufferings if they had discoursed on other subjects. Why, I used
to think that up here, where all the advantages of culture were
enjoyed - " He paused for a moment, and watched the youthful shade
of himself, in stiff-rim and square-cut, enter the door and swagger
across the room. "As I was saying, up here I thought all men and
women were brilliant and radiant. But now, from what little I've
seen of them, they strike me as a pack of ninnies, most of them,
and ninety percent of the remainder as bores. Now there's
Professor Caldwell - he's different. He's a man, every inch of him
and every atom of his gray matter."
Ruth's face brightened.
"Tell me about him," she urged. "Not what is large and brilliant -
I know those qualities; but whatever you feel is adverse. I am
most curious to know."
"Perhaps I'll get myself in a pickle." Martin debated humorously
for a moment. "Suppose you tell me first. Or maybe you find in
him nothing less than the best."
"I attended two lecture courses under him, and I have known him for
two years; that is why I am anxious for your first impression."
"Bad impression, you mean? Well, here goes. He is all the fine
things you think about him, I guess. At least, he is the finest
specimen of intellectual man I have met; but he is a man with a
"Oh, no, no!" he hastened to cry. "Nothing paltry nor vulgar.
What I mean is that he strikes me as a man who has gone to the
bottom of things, and is so afraid of what he saw that he makes
believe to himself that he never saw it. Perhaps that's not the
clearest way to express it. Here's another way. A man who has
found the path to the hidden temple but has not followed it; who
has, perhaps, caught glimpses of the temple and striven afterward
to convince himself that it was only a mirage of foliage. Yet
another way. A man who could have done things but who placed no
value on the doing, and who, all the time, in his innermost heart,
is regretting that he has not done them; who has secretly laughed
at the rewards for doing, and yet, still more secretly, has yearned
for the rewards and for the joy of doing."
"I don't read him that way," she said. "And for that matter, I
don't see just what you mean."
"It is only a vague feeling on my part," Martin temporized. "I
have no reason for it. It is only a feeling, and most likely it is
wrong. You certainly should know him better than I."
From the evening at Ruth's Martin brought away with him strange
confusions and conflicting feelings. He was disappointed in his
goal, in the persons he had climbed to be with. On the other hand,
he was encouraged with his success. The climb had been easier than
he expected. He was superior to the climb, and (he did not, with
false modesty, hide it from himself) he was superior to the beings
among whom he had climbed - with the exception, of course, of
Professor Caldwell. About life and the books he knew more than
they, and he wondered into what nooks and crannies they had cast
aside their educations. He did not know that he was himself
possessed of unusual brain vigor; nor did he know that the persons
who were given to probing the depths and to thinking ultimate
thoughts were not to be found in the drawing rooms of the world's
Morses; nor did he dream that such persons were as lonely eagles
sailing solitary in the azure sky far above the earth and its
swarming freight of gregarious life.
But success had lost Martin's address, and her messengers no longer
came to his door. For twenty-five days, working Sundays and
holidays, he toiled on "The Shame of the Sun," a long essay of some
thirty thousand words. It was a deliberate attack on the mysticism
of the Maeterlinck school - an attack from the citadel of positive
science upon the wonder-dreamers, but an attack nevertheless that
retained much of beauty and wonder of the sort compatible with
ascertained fact. It was a little later that he followed up the
attack with two short essays, "The Wonder-Dreamers" and "The
Yardstick of the Ego." And on essays, long and short, he began to
pay the travelling expenses from magazine to magazine.
During the twenty-five days spent on "The Shame of the Sun," he
sold hack-work to the extent of six dollars and fifty cents. A
joke had brought in fifty cents, and a second one, sold to a high-
grade comic weekly, had fetched a dollar. Then two humorous poems
had earned two dollars and three dollars respectively. As a
result, having exhausted his credit with the tradesmen (though he
had increased his credit with the grocer to five dollars), his
wheel and suit of clothes went back to the pawnbroker. The type-
writer people were again clamoring for money, insistently pointing
out that according to the agreement rent was to be paid strictly in
Encouraged by his several small sales, Martin went back to hack-
work. Perhaps there was a living in it, after all. Stored away
under his table were the twenty storiettes which had been rejected
by the newspaper short-story syndicate. He read them over in order
to find out how not to write newspaper storiettes, and so doing,
reasoned out the perfect formula. He found that the newspaper
storiette should never be tragic, should never end unhappily, and
should never contain beauty of language, subtlety of thought, nor
real delicacy of sentiment. Sentiment it must contain, plenty of
it, pure and noble, of the sort that in his own early youth had
brought his applause from "nigger heaven" - the "For-God-my-
country-and-the-Czar" and "I-may-be-poor-but-I-am-honest" brand of
Having learned such precautions, Martin consulted "The Duchess" for
tone, and proceeded to mix according to formula. The formula
consists of three parts: (1) a pair of lovers are jarred apart;
(2) by some deed or event they are reunited; (3) marriage bells.
The third part was an unvarying quantity, but the first and second
parts could be varied an infinite number of times. Thus, the pair
of lovers could be jarred apart by misunderstood motives, by
accident of fate, by jealous rivals, by irate parents, by crafty
guardians, by scheming relatives, and so forth and so forth; they
could be reunited by a brave deed of the man lover, by a similar
deed of the woman lover, by change of heart in one lover or the
other, by forced confession of crafty guardian, scheming relative,
or jealous rival, by voluntary confession of same, by discovery of
some unguessed secret, by lover storming girl's heart, by lover
making long and noble self-sacrifice, and so on, endlessly. It was
very fetching to make the girl propose in the course of being
reunited, and Martin discovered, bit by bit, other decidedly
piquant and fetching ruses. But marriage bells at the end was the
one thing he could take no liberties with; though the heavens
rolled up as a scroll and the stars fell, the wedding bells must go
on ringing just the same. In quantity, the formula prescribed
twelve hundred words minimum dose, fifteen hundred words maximum
Before he got very far along in the art of the storiette, Martin
worked out half a dozen stock forms, which he always consulted when
constructing storiettes. These forms were like the cunning tables
used by mathematicians, which may be entered from top, bottom,
right, and left, which entrances consist of scores of lines and
dozens of columns, and from which may be drawn, without reasoning
or thinking, thousands of different conclusions, all unchallengably
precise and true. Thus, in the course of half an hour with his
forms, Martin could frame up a dozen or so storiettes, which he put
aside and filled in at his convenience. He found that he could
fill one in, after a day of serious work, in the hour before going
to bed. As he later confessed to Ruth, he could almost do it in
his sleep. The real work was in constructing the frames, and that
was merely mechanical.
He had no doubt whatever of the efficacy of his formula, and for
once he knew the editorial mind when he said positively to himself
that the first two he sent off would bring checks. And checks they
brought, for four dollars each, at the end of twelve days.
In the meantime he was making fresh and alarming discoveries
concerning the magazines. Though the TRANSCONTINENTAL had
published "The Ring of Bells," no check was forthcoming. Martin
needed it, and he wrote for it. An evasive answer and a request
for more of his work was all he received. He had gone hungry two
days waiting for the reply, and it was then that he put his wheel
back in pawn. He wrote regularly, twice a week, to the
TRANSCONTINENTAL for his five dollars, though it was only semi-
occasionally that he elicited a reply. He did not know that the
TRANSCONTINENTAL had been staggering along precariously for years,
that it was a fourth-rater, or tenth-rater, without standing, with
a crazy circulation that partly rested on petty bullying and partly
on patriotic appealing, and with advertisements that were scarcely
more than charitable donations. Nor did he know that the
TRANSCONTINENTAL was the sole livelihood of the editor and the
business manager, and that they could wring their livelihood out of
it only by moving to escape paying rent and by never paying any
bill they could evade. Nor could he have guessed that the
particular five dollars that belonged to him had been appropriated
by the business manager for the painting of his house in Alameda,
which painting he performed himself, on week-day afternoons,
because he could not afford to pay union wages and because the
first scab he had employed had had a ladder jerked out from under
him and been sent to the hospital with a broken collar-bone.
The ten dollars for which Martin had sold "Treasure Hunters" to the
Chicago newspaper did not come to hand. The article had been
published, as he had ascertained at the file in the Central
Reading-room, but no word could he get from the editor. His
letters were ignored. To satisfy himself that they had been
received, he registered several of them. It was nothing less than
robbery, he concluded - a cold-blooded steal; while he starved, he
was pilfered of his merchandise, of his goods, the sale of which
was the sole way of getting bread to eat.
YOUTH AND AGE was a weekly, and it had published two-thirds of his
twenty-one-thousand-word serial when it went out of business. With
it went all hopes of getting his sixteen dollars.
To cap the situation, "The Pot," which he looked upon as one of the
best things he had written, was lost to him. In despair, casting
about frantically among the magazines, he had sent it to THE
BILLOW, a society weekly in San Francisco. His chief reason for
submitting it to that publication was that, having only to travel
across the bay from Oakland, a quick decision could be reached.
Two weeks later he was overjoyed to see, in the latest number on
the news-stand, his story printed in full, illustrated, and in the
place of honor. He went home with leaping pulse, wondering how
much they would pay him for one of the best things he had done.
Also, the celerity with which it had been accepted and published
was a pleasant thought to him. That the editor had not informed
him of the acceptance made the surprise more complete. After
waiting a week, two weeks, and half a week longer, desperation
conquered diffidence, and he wrote to the editor of THE BILLOW,
suggesting that possibly through some negligence of the business
manager his little account had been overlooked.
Even if it isn't more than five dollars, Martin thought to himself,
it will buy enough beans and pea-soup to enable me to write half a
dozen like it, and possibly as good.
Back came a cool letter from the editor that at least elicited
"We thank you," it ran, "for your excellent contribution. All of
us in the office enjoyed it immensely, and, as you see, it was
given the place of honor and immediate publication. We earnestly
hope that you liked the illustrations.
"On rereading your letter it seems to us that you are laboring
under the misapprehension that we pay for unsolicited manuscripts.
This is not our custom, and of course yours was unsolicited. We
assumed, naturally, when we received your story, that you
understood the situation. We can only deeply regret this
unfortunate misunderstanding, and assure you of our unfailing
regard. Again, thanking you for your kind contribution, and hoping
to receive more from you in the near future, we remain, etc."
There was also a postscript to the effect that though THE BILLOW
carried no free-list, it took great pleasure in sending him a
complimentary subscription for the ensuing year.
After that experience, Martin typed at the top of the first sheet
of all his manuscripts: "Submitted at your usual rate."
Some day, he consoled himself, they will be submitted at MY usual
He discovered in himself, at this period, a passion for perfection,
under the sway of which he rewrote and polished "The Jostling
Street," "The Wine of Life," "Joy," the "Sea Lyrics," and others of
his earlier work. As of old, nineteen hours of labor a day was all
too little to suit him. He wrote prodigiously, and he read
prodigiously, forgetting in his toil the pangs caused by giving up
his tobacco. Ruth's promised cure for the habit, flamboyantly
labelled, he stowed away in the most inaccessible corner of his
bureau. Especially during his stretches of famine he suffered from
lack of the weed; but no matter how often he mastered the craving,
it remained with him as strong as ever. He regarded it as the
biggest thing he had ever achieved. Ruth's point of view was that
he was doing no more than was right. She brought him the anti-
tobacco remedy, purchased out of her glove money, and in a few days
forgot all about it.
His machine-made storiettes, though he hated them and derided them,
were successful. By means of them he redeemed all his pledges,
paid most of his bills, and bought a new set of tires for his
wheel. The storiettes at least kept the pot a-boiling and gave him
time for ambitious work; while the one thing that upheld him was
the forty dollars he had received from THE WHITE MOUSE. He
anchored his faith to that, and was confident that the really
first-class magazines would pay an unknown writer at least an equal
rate, if not a better one. But the thing was, how to get into the
first-class magazines. His best stories, essays, and poems went
begging among them, and yet, each month, he read reams of dull,
prosy, inartistic stuff between all their various covers. If only
one editor, he sometimes thought, would descend from his high seat
of pride to write me one cheering line! No matter if my work is
unusual, no matter if it is unfit, for prudential reasons, for
their pages, surely there must be some sparks in it, somewhere, a
few, to warm them to some sort of appreciation. And thereupon he
would get out one or another of his manuscripts, such as
"Adventure," and read it over and over in a vain attempt to
vindicate the editorial silence.
As the sweet California spring came on, his period of plenty came
to an end. For several weeks he had been worried by a strange
silence on the part of the newspaper storiette syndicate. Then,
one day, came back to him through the mail ten of his immaculate
machine-made storiettes. They were accompanied by a brief letter
to the effect that the syndicate was overstocked, and that some
months would elapse before it would be in the market again for
manuscripts. Martin had even been extravagant m the strength of
those on ten storiettes. Toward the last the syndicate had been
paying him five dollars each for them and accepting every one he
sent. So he had looked upon the ten as good as sold, and he had
lived accordingly, on a basis of fifty dollars in the bank. So it
was that he entered abruptly upon a lean period, wherein he
continued selling his earlier efforts to publications that would
not pay and submitting his later work to magazines that would not
buy. Also, he resumed his trips to the pawn-broker down in
Oakland. A few jokes and snatches of humorous verse, sold to the
New York weeklies, made existence barely possible for him. It was
at this time that he wrote letters of inquiry to the several great
monthly and quarterly reviews, and learned in reply that they
rarely considered unsolicited articles, and that most of their
contents were written upon order by well-known specialists who were
authorities in their various fields.
It was a hard summer for Martin. Manuscript readers and editors
were away on vacation, and publications that ordinarily returned a
decision in three weeks now retained his manuscript for three
months or more. The consolation he drew from it was that a saving
in postage was effected by the deadlock. Only the robber-
publications seemed to remain actively in business, and to them
Martin disposed of all his early efforts, such as "Pearl-diving,"
"The Sea as a Career," "Turtle-catching," and "The Northeast
Trades." For these manuscripts he never received a penny. It is
true, after six months' correspondence, he effected a compromise,
whereby he received a safety razor for "Turtle-catching," and that
THE ACROPOLIS, having agreed to give him five dollars cash and five
yearly subscriptions: for "The Northeast Trades," fulfilled the
second part of the agreement.
For a sonnet on Stevenson he managed to wring two dollars out of a
Boston editor who was running a magazine with a Matthew Arnold
taste and a penny-dreadful purse. "The Peri and the Pearl," a
clever skit of a poem of two hundred lines, just finished, white
hot from his brain, won the heart of the editor of a San Francisco
magazine published in the interest of a great railroad. When the
editor wrote, offering him payment in transportation, Martin wrote
back to inquire if the transportation was transferable. It was
not, and so, being prevented from peddling it, he asked for the
return of the poem. Back it came, with the editor's regrets, and
Martin sent it to San Francisco again, this time to THE HORNET, a
pretentious monthly that had been fanned into a constellation of
the first magnitude by the brilliant journalist who founded it.
But THE HORNET'S light had begun to dim long before Martin was
born. The editor promised Martin fifteen dollars for the poem,
but, when it was published, seemed to forget about it. Several of
his letters being ignored, Martin indicted an angry one which drew
a reply. It was written by a new editor, who coolly informed
Martin that he declined to be held responsible for the old editor's
mistakes, and that he did not think much of "The Peri and the
But THE GLOBE, a Chicago magazine, gave Martin the most cruel
treatment of all. He had refrained from offering his "Sea Lyrics"
for publication, until driven to it by starvation. After having
been rejected by a dozen magazines, they had come to rest in THE
GLOBE office. There were thirty poems in the collection, and he
was to receive a dollar apiece for them. The first month four were
published, and he promptly received a cheek for four dollars; but
when he looked over the magazine, he was appalled at the slaughter.
In some cases the titles had been altered: "Finis," for instance,
being changed to "The Finish," and "The Song of the Outer Reef" to
"The Song of the Coral Reef." In one case, an absolutely different
title, a misappropriate title, was substituted. In place of his
own, "Medusa Lights," the editor had printed, "The Backward Track."
But the slaughter in the body of the poems was terrifying. Martin
groaned and sweated and thrust his hands through his hair.
Phrases, lines, and stanzas were cut out, interchanged, or juggled
about in the most incomprehensible manner. Sometimes lines and
stanzas not his own were substituted for his. He could not believe
that a sane editor could be guilty of such maltreatment, and his
favorite hypothesis was that his poems must have been doctored by
the office boy or the stenographer. Martin wrote immediately,
begging the editor to cease publishing the lyrics and to return
them to him.
He wrote again and again, begging, entreating, threatening, but his
letters were ignored. Month by month the slaughter went on till
the thirty poems were published, and month by month he received a
check for those which had appeared in the current number.
Despite these various misadventures, the memory of the WHITE MOUSE
forty-dollar check sustained him, though he was driven more and
more to hack-work. He discovered a bread-and-butter field in the
agricultural weeklies and trade journals, though among the
religious weeklies he found he could easily starve. At his lowest
ebb, when his black suit was in pawn, he made a ten-strike - or so
it seemed to him - in a prize contest arranged by the County
Committee of the Republican Party. There were three branches of
the contest, and he entered them all, laughing at himself bitterly
the while in that he was driven to such straits to live. His poem
won the first prize of ten dollars, his campaign song the second
prize of five dollars, his essay on the principles of the
Republican Party the first prize of twenty-five dollars. Which was
very gratifying to him until he tried to collect. Something had
gone wrong in the County Committee, and, though a rich banker and a
state senator were members of it, the money was not forthcoming.
While this affair was hanging fire, he proved that he understood
the principles of the Democratic Party by winning the first prize
for his essay in a similar contest. And, moreover, he received the
money, twenty-five dollars. But the forty dollars won in the first
contest he never received.
Driven to shifts in order to see Ruth, and deciding that the long
walk from north Oakland to her house and back again consumed too
much time, he kept his black suit in pawn in place of his bicycle.
The latter gave him exercise, saved him hours of time for work, and
enabled him to see Ruth just the same. A pair of knee duck
trousers and an old sweater made him a presentable wheel costume,
so that he could go with Ruth on afternoon rides. Besides, he no
longer had opportunity to see much of her in her own home, where
Mrs. Morse was thoroughly prosecuting her campaign of
entertainment. The exalted beings he met there, and to whom he had
looked up but a short time before, now bored him. They were no
longer exalted. He was nervous and irritable, what of his hard
times, disappointments, and close application to work, and the
conversation of such people was maddening. He was not unduly
egotistic. He measured the narrowness of their minds by the minds
of the thinkers in the books he read. At Ruth's home he never met
a large mind, with the exception of Professor Caldwell, and
Caldwell he had met there only once. As for the rest, they were
numskulls, ninnies, superficial, dogmatic, and ignorant. It was
their ignorance that astounded him. What was the matter with them?
What had they done with their educations? They had had access to
the same books he had. How did it happen that they had drawn
nothing from them?
He knew that the great minds, the deep and rational thinkers,
existed. He had his proofs from the books, the books that had
educated him beyond the Morse standard. And he knew that higher
intellects than those of the Morse circle were to be found in the
world. He read English society novels, wherein he caught glimpses
of men and women talking politics and philosophy. And he read of
salons in great cities, even in the United States, where art and
intellect congregated. Foolishly, in the past, he had conceived
that all well-groomed persons above the working class were persons
with power of intellect and vigor of beauty. Culture and collars
had gone together, to him, and he had been deceived into believing
that college educations and mastery were the same things.
Well, he would fight his way on and up higher. And he would take
Ruth with him. Her he dearly loved, and he was confident that she
would shine anywhere. As it was clear to him that he had been
handicapped by his early environment, so now he perceived that she
was similarly handicapped. She had not had a chance to expand.
The books on her father's shelves, the paintings on the walls, the
music on the piano - all was just so much meretricious display. To
real literature, real painting, real music, the Morses and their
kind, were dead. And bigger than such things was life, of which
they were densely, hopelessly ignorant. In spite of their
Unitarian proclivities and their masks of conservative
broadmindedness, they were two generations behind interpretative
science: their mental processes were mediaeval, while their
thinking on the ultimate data of existence and of the universe
struck him as the same metaphysical method that was as young as the
youngest race, as old as the cave-man, and older - the same that
moved the first Pleistocene ape-man to fear the dark; that moved
the first hasty Hebrew savage to incarnate Eve from Adam's rib;
that moved Descartes to build an idealistic system of the universe
out of the projections of his own puny ego; and that moved the
famous British ecclesiastic to denounce evolution in satire so
scathing as to win immediate applause and leave his name a
notorious scrawl on the page of history.
So Martin thought, and he thought further, till it dawned upon him
that the difference between these lawyers, officers, business men,
and bank cashiers he had met and the members of the working class
he had known was on a par with the difference in the food they ate,
clothes they wore, neighborhoods in which they lived. Certainly,
in all of them was lacking the something more which he found in
himself and in the books. The Morses had shown him the best their
social position could produce, and he was not impressed by it. A
pauper himself, a slave to the money-lender, he knew himself the
superior of those he met at the Morses'; and, when his one decent
suit of clothes was out of pawn, he moved among them a lord of
life, quivering with a sense of outrage akin to what a prince would
suffer if condemned to live with goat-herds.
"You hate and fear the socialists," he remarked to Mr. Morse, one
evening at dinner; "but why? You know neither them nor their
The conversation had been swung in that direction by Mrs. Morse,
who had been invidiously singing the praises of Mr. Hapgood. The
cashier was Martin's black beast, and his temper was a trifle short
where the talker of platitudes was concerned.
"Yes," he had said, "Charley Hapgood is what they call a rising
young man - somebody told me as much. And it is true. He'll make
the Governor's Chair before he dies, and, who knows? maybe the
United States Senate."
"What makes you think so?" Mrs. Morse had inquired.
"I've heard him make a campaign speech. It was so cleverly stupid
and unoriginal, and also so convincing, that the leaders cannot
help but regard him as safe and sure, while his platitudes are so
much like the platitudes of the average voter that - oh, well, you
know you flatter any man by dressing up his own thoughts for him
and presenting them to him."
"I actually think you are jealous of Mr. Hapgood," Ruth had chimed
The look of horror on Martin's face stirred Mrs. Morse to
"You surely don't mean to say that Mr. Hapgood is stupid?" she
"No more than the average Republican," was the retort, "or average
Democrat, either. They are all stupid when they are not crafty,
and very few of them are crafty. The only wise Republicans are the
millionnaires and their conscious henchmen. They know which side
their bread is buttered on, and they know why."
"I am a Republican," Mr. Morse put in lightly. "Pray, how do you
"Oh, you are an unconscious henchman."
"Why, yes. You do corporation work. You have no working-class nor
criminal practice. You don't depend upon wife-beaters and
pickpockets for your income. You get your livelihood from the
masters of society, and whoever feeds a man is that man's master.
Yes, you are a henchman. You are interested in advancing the
interests of the aggregations of capital you serve."
Mr. Morse's face was a trifle red.
"I confess, sir," he said, "that you talk like a scoundrelly
Then it was that Martin made his remark:
"You hate and fear the socialists; but why? You know neither them
nor their doctrines."
"Your doctrine certainly sounds like socialism," Mr. Morse replied,
while Ruth gazed anxiously from one to the other, and Mrs. Morse
beamed happily at the opportunity afforded of rousing her liege
"Because I say Republicans are stupid, and hold that liberty,
equality, and fraternity are exploded bubbles, does not make me a
socialist," Martin said with a smile. "Because I question
Jefferson and the unscientific Frenchmen who informed his mind,
does not make me a socialist. Believe me, Mr. Morse, you are far
nearer socialism than I who am its avowed enemy."
"Now you please to be facetious," was all the other could say.
"Not at all. I speak in all seriousness. You still believe in
equality, and yet you do the work of the corporations, and the
corporations, from day to day, are busily engaged in burying
equality. And you call me a socialist because I deny equality,
because I affirm just what you live up to. The Republicans are
foes to equality, though most of them fight the battle against
equality with the very word itself the slogan on their lips. In
the name of equality they destroy equality. That was why I called
them stupid. As for myself, I am an individualist. I believe the
race is to the swift, the battle to the strong. Such is the lesson
I have learned from biology, or at least think I have learned. As
I said, I am an individualist, and individualism is the hereditary
and eternal foe of socialism."
"But you frequent socialist meetings," Mr. Morse challenged.
"Certainly, just as spies frequent hostile camps. How else are you
to learn about the enemy? Besides, I enjoy myself at their
meetings. They are good fighters, and, right or wrong, they have
read the books. Any one of them knows far more about sociology and
all the other ologies than the average captain of industry. Yes, I
have been to half a dozen of their meetings, but that doesn't make
me a socialist any more than hearing Charley Hapgood orate made me
"I can't help it," Mr. Morse said feebly, "but I still believe you
incline that way."
Bless me, Martin thought to himself, he doesn't know what I was
talking about. He hasn't understood a word of it. What did he do
with his education, anyway?
Thus, in his development, Martin found himself face to face with
economic morality, or the morality of class; and soon it became to
him a grisly monster. Personally, he was an intellectual moralist,
and more offending to him than platitudinous pomposity was the
morality of those about him, which was a curious hotchpotch of the
economic, the metaphysical, the sentimental, and the imitative.
A sample of this curious messy mixture he encountered nearer home.
His sister Marian had been keeping company with an industrious
young mechanic, of German extraction, who, after thoroughly
learning the trade, had set up for himself in a bicycle-repair
shop. Also, having got the agency for a low-grade make of wheel,
he was prosperous. Marian had called on Martin in his room a short
time before to announce her engagement, during which visit she had
playfully inspected Martin's palm and told his fortune. On her
next visit she brought Hermann von Schmidt along with her. Martin
did the honors and congratulated both of them in language so easy
and graceful as to affect disagreeably the peasant-mind of his
sister's lover. This bad impression was further heightened by
Martin's reading aloud the half-dozen stanzas of verse with which
he had commemorated Marian's previous visit. It was a bit of
society verse, airy and delicate, which he had named "The Palmist."
He was surprised, when he finished reading it, to note no enjoyment
in his sister's face. Instead, her eyes were fixed anxiously upon
her betrothed, and Martin, following her gaze, saw spread on that
worthy's asymmetrical features nothing but black and sullen
disapproval. The incident passed over, they made an early
departure, and Martin forgot all about it, though for the moment he
had been puzzled that any woman, even of the working class, should
not have been flattered and delighted by having poetry written
Several evenings later Marian again visited him, this time alone.
Nor did she waste time in coming to the point, upbraiding him
sorrowfully for what he had done.
"Why, Marian," he chided, "you talk as though you were ashamed of
your relatives, or of your brother at any rate."
"And I am, too," she blurted out.
Martin was bewildered by the tears of mortification he saw in her
eyes. The mood, whatever it was, was genuine.
"But, Marian, why should your Hermann be jealous of my writing
poetry about my own sister?"
"He ain't jealous," she sobbed. "He says it was indecent, ob -
Martin emitted a long, low whistle of incredulity, then proceeded
to resurrect and read a carbon copy of "The Palmist."
"I can't see it," he said finally, proffering the manuscript to
her. "Read it yourself and show me whatever strikes you as obscene
- that was the word, wasn't it?"
"He says so, and he ought to know," was the answer, with a wave
aside of the manuscript, accompanied by a look of loathing. "And
he says you've got to tear it up. He says he won't have no wife of
his with such things written about her which anybody can read. He
says it's a disgrace, an' he won't stand for it."
"Now, look here, Marian, this is nothing but nonsense," Martin
began; then abruptly changed his mind.
He saw before him an unhappy girl, knew the futility of attempting
to convince her husband or her, and, though the whole situation was
absurd and preposterous, he resolved to surrender.
"All right," he announced, tearing the manuscript into half a dozen
pieces and throwing it into the waste-basket.
He contented himself with the knowledge that even then the original
type-written manuscript was reposing in the office of a New York
magazine. Marian and her husband would never know, and neither
himself nor they nor the world would lose if the pretty, harmless
poem ever were published.
Marian, starting to reach into the waste-basket, refrained.
"Can I?" she pleaded.
He nodded his head, regarding her thoughtfully as she gathered the
torn pieces of manuscript and tucked them into the pocket of her
jacket - ocular evidence of the success of her mission. She
reminded him of Lizzie Connolly, though there was less of fire and
gorgeous flaunting life in her than in that other girl of the
working class whom he had seen twice. But they were on a par, the
pair of them, in dress and carriage, and he smiled with inward
amusement at the caprice of his fancy which suggested the
appearance of either of them in Mrs. Morse's drawing-room. The
amusement faded, and he was aware of a great loneliness. This
sister of his and the Morse drawing-room were milestones of the
road he had travelled. And he had left them behind. He glanced
affectionately about him at his few books. They were all the
comrades left to him.
"Hello, what's that?" he demanded in startled surprise.
Marian repeated her question.
"Why don't I go to work?" He broke into a laugh that was only
half-hearted. "That Hermann of yours has been talking to you."
She shook her head.
"Don't lie," he commanded, and the nod of her head affirmed his
"Well, you tell that Hermann of yours to mind his own business;
that when I write poetry about the girl he's keeping company with
it's his business, but that outside of that he's got no say so.
"So you don't think I'll succeed as a writer, eh?" he went on.
"You think I'm no good? - that I've fallen down and am a disgrace
to the family?"
"I think it would be much better if you got a job," she said
firmly, and he saw she was sincere. "Hermann says - "
"Damn Hermann!" he broke out good-naturedly. "What I want to know
is when you're going to get married. Also, you find out from your
Hermann if he will deign to permit you to accept a wedding present
He mused over the incident after she had gone, and once or twice
broke out into laughter that was bitter as he saw his sister and
her betrothed, all the members of his own class and the members of
Ruth's class, directing their narrow little lives by narrow little
formulas - herd-creatures, flocking together and patterning their
lives by one another's opinions, failing of being individuals and
of really living life because of the childlike formulas by which
they were enslaved. He summoned them before him in apparitional
procession: Bernard Higginbotham arm in arm with Mr. Butler,
Hermann von Schmidt cheek by jowl with Charley Hapgood, and one by
one and in pairs he judged them and dismissed them - judged them by
the standards of intellect and morality he had learned from the
books. Vainly he asked: Where are the great souls, the great men
and women? He found them not among the careless, gross, and stupid
intelligences that answered the call of vision to his narrow room.
He felt a loathing for them such as Circe must have felt for her
swine. When he had dismissed the last one and thought himself
alone, a late-comer entered, unexpected and unsummoned. Martin
watched him and saw the stiff-rim, the square-cut, double-breasted
coat and the swaggering shoulders, of the youthful hoodlum who had
once been he.
"You were like all the rest, young fellow," Martin sneered. "Your
morality and your knowledge were just the same as theirs. You did
not think and act for yourself. Your opinions, like your clothes,
were ready made; your acts were shaped by popular approval. You
were cock of your gang because others acclaimed you the real thing.
You fought and ruled the gang, not because you liked to, - you know
you really despised it, - but because the other fellows patted you
on the shoulder. You licked Cheese-Face because you wouldn't give
in, and you wouldn't give in partly because you were an abysmal
brute and for the rest because you believed what every one about
you believed, that the measure of manhood was the carnivorous
ferocity displayed in injuring and marring fellow-creatures'
anatomies. Why, you whelp, you even won other fellows' girls away
from them, not because you wanted the girls, but because in the
marrow of those about you, those who set your moral pace, was the
instinct of the wild stallion and the bull-seal. Well, the years
have passed, and what do you think about it now?"
As if in reply, the vision underwent a swift metamorphosis. The
stiff-rim and the square-cut vanished, being replaced by milder
garments; the toughness went out of the face, the hardness out of
the eyes; and, the face, chastened and refined, was irradiated from
an inner life of communion with beauty and knowledge. The
apparition was very like his present self, and, as he regarded it,
he noted the student-lamp by which it was illuminated, and the book
over which it pored. He glanced at the title and read, "The
Science of AEsthetics." Next, he entered into the apparition,
trimmed the student-lamp, and himself went on reading "The Science
On a beautiful fall day, a day of similar Indian summer to that
which had seen their love declared the year before, Martin read his
"Love-cycle" to Ruth. It was in the afternoon, and, as before,
they had ridden out to their favorite knoll in the hills. Now and
again she had interrupted his reading with exclamations of
pleasure, and now, as he laid the last sheet of manuscript with its
fellows, he waited her judgment.
She delayed to speak, and at last she spoke haltingly, hesitating
to frame in words the harshness of her thought.
"I think they are beautiful, very beautiful," she said; "but you
can't sell them, can you? You see what I mean," she said, almost
pleaded. "This writing of yours is not practical. Something is
the matter - maybe it is with the market - that prevents you from
earning a living by it. And please, dear, don't misunderstand me.
I am flattered, and made proud, and all that - I could not be a
true woman were it otherwise - that you should write these poems to
me. But they do not make our marriage possible. Don't you see,
Martin? Don't think me mercenary. It is love, the thought of our
future, with which I am burdened. A whole year has gone by since
we learned we loved each other, and our wedding day is no nearer.
Don't think me immodest in thus talking about our wedding, for
really I have my heart, all that I am, at stake. Why don't you try
to get work on a newspaper, if you are so bound up in your writing?
Why not become a reporter? - for a while, at least?"
"It would spoil my style," was his answer, in a low, monotonous
voice. "You have no idea how I've worked for style."
"But those storiettes," she argued. "You called them hack-work.
You wrote many of them. Didn't they spoil your style?"
"No, the cases are different. The storiettes were ground out,
jaded, at the end of a long day of application to style. But a
reporter's work is all hack from morning till night, is the one
paramount thing of life. And it is a whirlwind life, the life of
the moment, with neither past nor future, and certainly without
thought of any style but reportorial style, and that certainly is
not literature. To become a reporter now, just as my style is
taking form, crystallizing, would be to commit literary suicide.
As it is, every storiette, every word of every storiette, was a
violation of myself, of my self-respect, of my respect for beauty.
I tell you it was sickening. I was guilty of sin. And I was
secretly glad when the markets failed, even if my clothes did go
into pawn. But the joy of writing the 'Love-cycle'! The creative
joy in its noblest form! That was compensation for everything."
Martin did not know that Ruth was unsympathetic concerning the
creative joy. She used the phrase - it was on her lips he had
first heard it. She had read about it, studied about it, in the
university in the course of earning her Bachelorship of Arts; but
she was not original, not creative, and all manifestations of
culture on her part were but harpings of the harpings of others.
"May not the editor have been right in his revision of your 'Sea
Lyrics'?" she questioned. "Remember, an editor must have proved
qualifications or else he would not be an editor."
"That's in line with the persistence of the established," he
rejoined, his heat against the editor-folk getting the better of
him. "What is, is not only right, but is the best possible. The
existence of anything is sufficient vindication of its fitness to
exist - to exist, mark you, as the average person unconsciously
believes, not merely in present conditions, but in all conditions.
It is their ignorance, of course, that makes them believe such rot
- their ignorance, which is nothing more nor less than the
henidical mental process described by Weininger. They think they
think, and such thinkless creatures are the arbiters of the lives
of the few who really think."
He paused, overcome by the consciousness that he had been talking
over Ruth's head.
"I'm sure I don't know who this Weininger is," she retorted. "And
you are so dreadfully general that I fail to follow you. What I
was speaking of was the qualification of editors - "
"And I'll tell you," he interrupted. "The chief qualification of
ninety-nine per cent of all editors is failure. They have failed
as writers. Don't think they prefer the drudgery of the desk and
the slavery to their circulation and to the business manager to the
joy of writing. They have tried to write, and they have failed.
And right there is the cursed paradox of it. Every portal to
success in literature is guarded by those watch-dogs, the failures
in literature. The editors, sub-editors, associate editors, most
of them, and the manuscript-readers for the magazines and book-
publishers, most of them, nearly all of them, are men who wanted to
write and who have failed. And yet they, of all creatures under
the sun the most unfit, are the very creatures who decide what
shall and what shall not find its way into print - they, who have
proved themselves not original, who have demonstrated that they
lack the divine fire, sit in judgment upon originality and genius.
And after them come the reviewers, just so many more failures.
Don't tell me that they have not dreamed the dream and attempted to
write poetry or fiction; for they have, and they have failed. Why,
the average review is more nauseating than cod-liver oil. But you
know my opinion on the reviewers and the alleged critics. There
are great critics, but they are as rare as comets. If I fail as a
writer, I shall have proved for the career of editorship. There's
bread and butter and jam, at any rate."
Ruth's mind was quick, and her disapproval of her lover's views was
buttressed by the contradiction she found in his contention.
"But, Martin, if that be so, if all the doors are closed as you
have shown so conclusively, how is it possible that any of the
great writers ever arrived?"
"They arrived by achieving the impossible," he answered. "They did
such blazing, glorious work as to burn to ashes those that opposed
them. They arrived by course of miracle, by winning a thousand-to-
one wager against them. They arrived because they were Carlyle's
battle-scarred giants who will not be kept down. And that is what
I must do; I must achieve the impossible."
"But if you fail? You must consider me as well, Martin."
"If I fail?" He regarded her for a moment as though the thought
she had uttered was unthinkable. Then intelligence illumined his
eyes. "If I fail, I shall become an editor, and you will be an
She frowned at his facetiousness - a pretty, adorable frown that
made him put his arm around her and kiss it away.
"There, that's enough," she urged, by an effort of will withdrawing
herself from the fascination of his strength. "I have talked with
father and mother. I never before asserted myself so against them.
I demanded to be heard. I was very undutiful. They are against
you, you know; but I assured them over and over of my abiding love
for you, and at last father agreed that if you wanted to, you could
begin right away in his office. And then, of his own accord, he
said he would pay you enough at the start so that we could get
married and have a little cottage somewhere. Which I think was
very fine of him - don't you?"
Martin, with the dull pain of despair at his heart, mechanically
reaching for the tobacco and paper (which he no longer carried) to
roll a cigarette, muttered something inarticulate, and Ruth went
"Frankly, though, and don't let it hurt you - I tell you, to show
you precisely how you stand with him - he doesn't like your radical
views, and he thinks you are lazy. Of course I know you are not.
I know you work hard."
How hard, even she did not know, was the thought in Martin's mind.
"Well, then," he said, "how about my views? Do you think they are
He held her eyes and waited the answer.
"I think them, well, very disconcerting," she replied.
The question was answered for him, and so oppressed was he by the
grayness of life that he forgot the tentative proposition she had
made for him to go to work. And she, having gone as far as she
dared, was willing to wait the answer till she should bring the
question up again.
She had not long to wait. Martin had a question of his own to
propound to her. He wanted to ascertain the measure of her faith
in him, and within the week each was answered. Martin precipitated
it by reading to her his "The Shame of the Sun."
"Why don't you become a reporter?" she asked when he had finished.
"You love writing so, and I am sure you would succeed. You could
rise in journalism and make a name for yourself. There are a
number of great special correspondents. Their salaries are large,
and their field is the world. They are sent everywhere, to the
heart of Africa, like Stanley, or to interview the Pope, or to
explore unknown Thibet."
"Then you don't like my essay?" he rejoined. "You believe that I
have some show in journalism but none in literature?"
"No, no; I do like it. It reads well. But I am afraid it's over
the heads of your readers. At least it is over mine. It sounds
beautiful, but I don't understand it. Your scientific slang is
beyond me. You are an extremist, you know, dear, and what may be
intelligible to you may not be intelligible to the rest of us."
"I imagine it's the philosophic slang that bothers you," was all he
He was flaming from the fresh reading of the ripest thought he had
expressed, and her verdict stunned him.
"No matter how poorly it is done," he persisted, "don't you see
anything in it? - in the thought of it, I mean?"
She shook her head.
"No, it is so different from anything I have read. I read
Maeterlinck and understand him - "
"His mysticism, you understand that?" Martin flashed out.
"Yes, but this of yours, which is supposed to be an attack upon
him, I don't understand. Of course, if originality counts - "
He stopped her with an impatient gesture that was not followed by
speech. He became suddenly aware that she was speaking and that
she had been speaking for some time.
"After all, your writing has been a toy to you," she was saying.
"Surely you have played with it long enough. It is time to take up
life seriously - OUR life, Martin. Hitherto you have lived solely
"You want me to go to work?" he asked.
"Yes. Father has offered - "
"I understand all that," he broke in; "but what I want to know is
whether or not you have lost faith in me?"
She pressed his hand mutely, her eyes dim.
"In your writing, dear," she admitted in a half-whisper.
"You've read lots of my stuff," he went on brutally. "What do you