Part 7 out of 8
process you persuade yourself that you believe in the competitive
system and the survival of the strong, and at the same time you
indorse with might and main all sorts of measures to shear the
strength from the strong."
"My young man - "
"Remember, I've heard your campaign speeches," Martin warned.
"It's on record, your position on interstate commerce regulation,
on regulation of the railway trust and Standard Oil, on the
conservation of the forests, on a thousand and one restrictive
measures that are nothing else than socialistic."
"Do you mean to tell me that you do not believe in regulating these
various outrageous exercises of power?"
"That's not the point. I mean to tell you that you are a poor
diagnostician. I mean to tell you that I am not suffering from the
microbe of socialism. I mean to tell you that it is you who are
suffering from the emasculating ravages of that same microbe. As
for me, I am an inveterate opponent of socialism just as I am an
inveterate opponent of your own mongrel democracy that is nothing
else than pseudo-socialism masquerading under a garb of words that
will not stand the test of the dictionary."
"I am a reactionary - so complete a reactionary that my position is
incomprehensible to you who live in a veiled lie of social
organization and whose sight is not keen enough to pierce the veil.
You make believe that you believe in the survival of the strong and
the rule of the strong. I believe. That is the difference. When
I was a trifle younger, - a few months younger, - I believed the
same thing. You see, the ideas of you and yours had impressed me.
But merchants and traders are cowardly rulers at best; they grunt
and grub all their days in the trough of money-getting, and I have
swung back to aristocracy, if you please. I am the only
individualist in this room. I look to the state for nothing. I
look only to the strong man, the man on horseback, to save the
state from its own rotten futility."
"Nietzsche was right. I won't take the time to tell you who
Nietzsche was, but he was right. The world belongs to the strong -
to the strong who are noble as well and who do not wallow in the
swine-trough of trade and exchange. The world belongs to the true
nobleman, to the great blond beasts, to the noncompromisers, to the
'yes-sayers.' And they will eat you up, you socialists - who are
afraid of socialism and who think yourselves individualists. Your
slave-morality of the meek and lowly will never save you. - Oh,
it's all Greek, I know, and I won't bother you any more with it.
But remember one thing. There aren't half a dozen individualists
in Oakland, but Martin Eden is one of them."
He signified that he was done with the discussion, and turned to
"I'm wrought up to-day," he said in an undertone. "All I want to
do is to love, not talk."
He ignored Mr. Morse, who said:-
"I am unconvinced. All socialists are Jesuits. That is the way to
"We'll make a good Republican out of you yet," said Judge Blount.
"The man on horseback will arrive before that time," Martin
retorted with good humor, and returned to Ruth.
But Mr. Morse was not content. He did not like the laziness and
the disinclination for sober, legitimate work of this prospective
son-in-law of his, for whose ideas he had no respect and of whose
nature he had no understanding. So he turned the conversation to
Herbert Spencer. Judge Blount ably seconded him, and Martin, whose
ears had pricked at the first mention of the philosopher's name,
listened to the judge enunciate a grave and complacent diatribe
against Spencer. From time to time Mr. Morse glanced at Martin, as
much as to say, "There, my boy, you see."
"Chattering daws," Martin muttered under his breath, and went on
talking with Ruth and Arthur.
But the long day and the "real dirt" of the night before were
telling upon him; and, besides, still in his burnt mind was what
had made him angry when he read it on the car.
"What is the matter?" Ruth asked suddenly alarmed by the effort he
was making to contain himself.
"There is no god but the Unknowable, and Herbert Spencer is its
prophet," Judge Blount was saying at that moment.
Martin turned upon him.
"A cheap judgment," he remarked quietly. "I heard it first in the
City Hall Park, on the lips of a workingman who ought to have known
better. I have heard it often since, and each time the clap-trap
of it nauseates me. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. To hear
that great and noble man's name upon your lips is like finding a
dew-drop in a cesspool. You are disgusting."
It was like a thunderbolt. Judge Blount glared at him with
apoplectic countenance, and silence reigned. Mr. Morse was
secretly pleased. He could see that his daughter was shocked. It
was what he wanted to do - to bring out the innate ruffianism of
this man he did not like.
Ruth's hand sought Martin's beseechingly under the table, but his
blood was up. He was inflamed by the intellectual pretence and
fraud of those who sat in the high places. A Superior Court Judge!
It was only several years before that he had looked up from the
mire at such glorious entities and deemed them gods.
Judge Blount recovered himself and attempted to go on, addressing
himself to Martin with an assumption of politeness that the latter
understood was for the benefit of the ladies. Even this added to
his anger. Was there no honesty in the world?
"You can't discuss Spencer with me," he cried. "You do not know
any more about Spencer than do his own countrymen. But it is no
fault of yours, I grant. It is just a phase of the contemptible
ignorance of the times. I ran across a sample of it on my way here
this evening. I was reading an essay by Saleeby on Spencer. You
should read it. It is accessible to all men. You can buy it in
any book-store or draw it from the public library. You would feel
ashamed of your paucity of abuse and ignorance of that noble man
compared with what Saleeby has collected on the subject. It is a
record of shame that would shame your shame."
"'The philosopher of the half-educated,' he was called by an
academic Philosopher who was not worthy to pollute the atmosphere
he breathed. I don't think you have read ten pages of Spencer, but
there have been critics, assumably more intelligent than you, who
have read no more than you of Spencer, who publicly challenged his
followers to adduce one single idea from all his writings - from
Herbert Spencer's writings, the man who has impressed the stamp of
his genius over the whole field of scientific research and modern
thought; the father of psychology; the man who revolutionized
pedagogy, so that to-day the child of the French peasant is taught
the three R's according to principles laid down by him. And the
little gnats of men sting his memory when they get their very bread
and butter from the technical application of his ideas. What
little of worth resides in their brains is largely due to him. It
is certain that had he never lived, most of what is correct in
their parrot-learned knowledge would be absent."
"And yet a man like Principal Fairbanks of Oxford - a man who sits
in an even higher place than you, Judge Blount - has said that
Spencer will be dismissed by posterity as a poet and dreamer rather
than a thinker. Yappers and blatherskites, the whole brood of
them! '"First Principles" is not wholly destitute of a certain
literary power,' said one of them. And others of them have said
that he was an industrious plodder rather than an original thinker.
Yappers and blatherskites! Yappers and blatherskites!"
Martin ceased abruptly, in a dead silence. Everybody in Ruth's
family looked up to Judge Blount as a man of power and achievement,
and they were horrified at Martin's outbreak. The remainder of the
dinner passed like a funeral, the judge and Mr. Morse confining
their talk to each other, and the rest of the conversation being
extremely desultory. Then afterward, when Ruth and Martin were
alone, there was a scene.
"You are unbearable," she wept.
But his anger still smouldered, and he kept muttering, "The beasts!
When she averred he had insulted the judge, he retorted:-
"By telling the truth about him?"
"I don't care whether it was true or not," she insisted. "There
are certain bounds of decency, and you had no license to insult
"Then where did Judge Blount get the license to assault truth?"
Martin demanded. "Surely to assault truth is a more serious
misdemeanor than to insult a pygmy personality such as the judge's.
He did worse than that. He blackened the name of a great, noble
man who is dead. Oh, the beasts! The beasts!"
His complex anger flamed afresh, and Ruth was in terror of him.
Never had she seen him so angry, and it was all mystified and
unreasonable to her comprehension. And yet, through her very
terror ran the fibres of fascination that had drawn and that still
drew her to him - that had compelled her to lean towards him, and,
in that mad, culminating moment, lay her hands upon his neck. She
was hurt and outraged by what had taken place, and yet she lay in
his arms and quivered while he went on muttering, "The beasts! The
beasts!" And she still lay there when he said: "I'll not bother
your table again, dear. They do not like me, and it is wrong of me
to thrust my objectionable presence upon them. Besides, they are
just as objectionable to me. Faugh! They are sickening. And to
think of it, I dreamed in my innocence that the persons who sat in
the high places, who lived in fine houses and had educations and
bank accounts, were worth while!
"Come on, let's go down to the local."
So spoke Brissenden, faint from a hemorrhage of half an hour before
- the second hemorrhage in three days. The perennial whiskey glass
was in his hands, and he drained it with shaking fingers.
"What do I want with socialism?" Martin demanded.
"Outsiders are allowed five-minute speeches," the sick man urged.
"Get up and spout. Tell them why you don't want socialism. Tell
them what you think about them and their ghetto ethics. Slam
Nietzsche into them and get walloped for your pains. Make a scrap
of it. It will do them good. Discussion is what they want, and
what you want, too. You see, I'd like to see you a socialist
before I'm gone. It will give you a sanction for your existence.
It is the one thing that will save you in the time of
disappointment that is coming to you."
"I never can puzzle out why you, of all men, are a socialist,"
Martin pondered. "You detest the crowd so. Surely there is
nothing in the canaille to recommend it to your aesthetic soul."
He pointed an accusing finger at the whiskey glass which the other
was refilling. "Socialism doesn't seem to save you."
"I'm very sick," was the answer. "With you it is different. You
have health and much to live for, and you must be handcuffed to
life somehow. As for me, you wonder why I am a socialist. I'll
tell you. It is because Socialism is inevitable; because the
present rotten and irrational system cannot endure; because the day
is past for your man on horseback. The slaves won't stand for it.
They are too many, and willy-nilly they'll drag down the would-be
equestrian before ever he gets astride. You can't get away from
them, and you'll have to swallow the whole slave-morality. It's
not a nice mess, I'll allow. But it's been a-brewing and swallow
it you must. You are antediluvian anyway, with your Nietzsche
ideas. The past is past, and the man who says history repeats
itself is a liar. Of course I don't like the crowd, but what's a
poor chap to do? We can't have the man on horseback, and anything
is preferable to the timid swine that now rule. But come on,
anyway. I'm loaded to the guards now, and if I sit here any
longer, I'll get drunk. And you know the doctor says - damn the
doctor! I'll fool him yet."
It was Sunday night, and they found the small hall packed by the
Oakland socialists, chiefly members of the working class. The
speaker, a clever Jew, won Martin's admiration at the same time
that he aroused his antagonism. The man's stooped and narrow
shoulders and weazened chest proclaimed him the true child of the
crowded ghetto, and strong on Martin was the age-long struggle of
the feeble, wretched slaves against the lordly handful of men who
had ruled over them and would rule over them to the end of time.
To Martin this withered wisp of a creature was a symbol. He was
the figure that stood forth representative of the whole miserable
mass of weaklings and inefficients who perished according to
biological law on the ragged confines of life. They were the
unfit. In spite of their cunning philosophy and of their antlike
proclivities for cooperation, Nature rejected them for the
exceptional man. Out of the plentiful spawn of life she flung from
her prolific hand she selected only the best. It was by the same
method that men, aping her, bred race-horses and cucumbers.
Doubtless, a creator of a Cosmos could have devised a better
method; but creatures of this particular Cosmos must put up with
this particular method. Of course, they could squirm as they
perished, as the socialists squirmed, as the speaker on the
platform and the perspiring crowd were squirming even now as they
counselled together for some new device with which to minimize the
penalties of living and outwit the Cosmos.
So Martin thought, and so he spoke when Brissenden urged him to
give them hell. He obeyed the mandate, walking up to the platform,
as was the custom, and addressing the chairman. He began in a low
voice, haltingly, forming into order the ideas which had surged in
his brain while the Jew was speaking. In such meetings five
minutes was the time allotted to each speaker; but when Martin's
five minutes were up, he was in full stride, his attack upon their
doctrines but half completed. He had caught their interest, and
the audience urged the chairman by acclamation to extend Martin's
time. They appreciated him as a foeman worthy of their intellect,
and they listened intently, following every word. He spoke with
fire and conviction, mincing no words in his attack upon the slaves
and their morality and tactics and frankly alluding to his hearers
as the slaves in question. He quoted Spencer and Malthus, and
enunciated the biological law of development.
"And so," he concluded, in a swift resume, "no state composed of
the slave-types can endure. The old law of development still
holds. In the struggle for existence, as I have shown, the strong
and the progeny of the strong tend to survive, while the weak and
the progeny of the weak are crushed and tend to perish. The result
is that the strong and the progeny of the strong survive, and, so
long as the struggle obtains, the strength of each generation
increases. That is development. But you slaves - it is too bad to
be slaves, I grant - but you slaves dream of a society where the
law of development will be annulled, where no weaklings and
inefficients will perish, where every inefficient will have as much
as he wants to eat as many times a day as he desires, and where all
will marry and have progeny - the weak as well as the strong. What
will be the result? No longer will the strength and life-value of
each generation increase. On the contrary, it will diminish.
There is the Nemesis of your slave philosophy. Your society of
slaves - of, by, and for, slaves - must inevitably weaken and go to
pieces as the life which composes it weakens and goes to pieces.
"Remember, I am enunciating biology and not sentimental ethics. No
state of slaves can stand - "
"How about the United States?" a man yelled from the audience.
"And how about it?" Martin retorted. "The thirteen colonies threw
off their rulers and formed the Republic so-called. The slaves
were their own masters. There were no more masters of the sword.
But you couldn't get along without masters of some sort, and there
arose a new set of masters - not the great, virile, noble men, but
the shrewd and spidery traders and money-lenders. And they
enslaved you over again - but not frankly, as the true, noble men
would do with weight of their own right arms, but secretly, by
spidery machinations and by wheedling and cajolery and lies. They
have purchased your slave judges, they have debauched your slave
legislatures, and they have forced to worse horrors than chattel
slavery your slave boys and girls. Two million of your children
are toiling to-day in this trader-oligarchy of the United States.
Ten millions of you slaves are not properly sheltered nor properly
"But to return. I have shown that no society of slaves can endure,
because, in its very nature, such society must annul the law of
development. No sooner can a slave society be organized than
deterioration sets in. It is easy for you to talk of annulling the
law of development, but where is the new law of development that
will maintain your strength? Formulate it. Is it already
formulated? Then state it."
Martin took his seat amidst an uproar of voices. A score of men
were on their feet clamoring for recognition from the chair. And
one by one, encouraged by vociferous applause, speaking with fire
and enthusiasm and excited gestures, they replied to the attack.
It was a wild night - but it was wild intellectually, a battle of
ideas. Some strayed from the point, but most of the speakers
replied directly to Martin. They shook him with lines of thought
that were new to him; and gave him insights, not into new
biological laws, but into new applications of the old laws. They
were too earnest to be always polite, and more than once the
chairman rapped and pounded for order.
It chanced that a cub reporter sat in the audience, detailed there
on a day dull of news and impressed by the urgent need of
journalism for sensation. He was not a bright cub reporter. He
was merely facile and glib. He was too dense to follow the
discussion. In fact, he had a comfortable feeling that he was
vastly superior to these wordy maniacs of the working class. Also,
he had a great respect for those who sat in the high places and
dictated the policies of nations and newspapers. Further, he had
an ideal, namely, of achieving that excellence of the perfect
reporter who is able to make something - even a great deal - out of
He did not know what all the talk was about. It was not necessary.
Words like REVOLUTION gave him his cue. Like a paleontologist,
able to reconstruct an entire skeleton from one fossil bone, he was
able to reconstruct a whole speech from the one word REVOLUTION.
He did it that night, and he did it well; and since Martin had made
the biggest stir, he put it all into his mouth and made him the
arch-anarch of the show, transforming his reactionary individualism
into the most lurid, red-shirt socialist utterance. The cub
reporter was an artist, and it was a large brush with which he laid
on the local color - wild-eyed long-haired men, neurasthenia and
degenerate types of men, voices shaken with passion, clenched fists
raised on high, and all projected against a background of oaths,
yells, and the throaty rumbling of angry men.
Over the coffee, in his little room, Martin read next morning's
paper. It was a novel experience to find himself head-lined, on
the first page at that; and he was surprised to learn that he was
the most notorious leader of the Oakland socialists. He ran over
the violent speech the cub reporter had constructed for him, and,
though at first he was angered by the fabrication, in the end he
tossed the paper aside with a laugh.
"Either the man was drunk or criminally malicious," he said that
afternoon, from his perch on the bed, when Brissenden had arrived
and dropped limply into the one chair.
"But what do you care?" Brissenden asked. "Surely you don't desire
the approval of the bourgeois swine that read the newspapers?"
Martin thought for a while, then said:-
"No, I really don't care for their approval, not a whit. On the
other hand, it's very likely to make my relations with Ruth's
family a trifle awkward. Her father always contended I was a
socialist, and this miserable stuff will clinch his belief. Not
that I care for his opinion - but what's the odds? I want to read
you what I've been doing to-day. It's 'Overdue,' of course, and
I'm just about halfway through."
He was reading aloud when Maria thrust open the door and ushered in
a young man in a natty suit who glanced briskly about him, noting
the oil-burner and the kitchen in the corner before his gaze
wandered on to Martin.
"Sit down," Brissenden said.
Martin made room for the young man on the bed and waited for him to
broach his business.
"I heard you speak last night, Mr. Eden, and I've come to interview
you," he began.
Brissenden burst out in a hearty laugh.
"A brother socialist?" the reporter asked, with a quick glance at
Brissenden that appraised the color-value of that cadaverous and
"And he wrote that report," Martin said softly. "Why, he is only a
"Why don't you poke him?" Brissenden asked. "I'd give a thousand
dollars to have my lungs back for five minutes."
The cub reporter was a trifle perplexed by this talking over him
and around him and at him. But he had been commended for his
brilliant description of the socialist meeting and had further been
detailed to get a personal interview with Martin Eden, the leader
of the organized menace to society.
"You do not object to having your picture taken, Mr. Eden?" he
said. "I've a staff photographer outside, you see, and he says it
will be better to take you right away before the sun gets lower.
Then we can have the interview afterward."
"A photographer," Brissenden said meditatively. "Poke him, Martin!
"I guess I'm getting old," was the answer. "I know I ought, but I
really haven't the heart. It doesn't seem to matter."
"For his mother's sake," Brissenden urged.
"It's worth considering," Martin replied; "but it doesn't seem
worth while enough to rouse sufficient energy in me. You see, it
does take energy to give a fellow a poking. Besides, what does it
"That's right - that's the way to take it," the cub announced
airily, though he had already begun to glance anxiously at the
"But it wasn't true, not a word of what he wrote," Martin went on,
confining his attention to Brissenden.
"It was just in a general way a description, you understand," the
cub ventured, "and besides, it's good advertising. That's what
counts. It was a favor to you."
"It's good advertising, Martin, old boy," Brissenden repeated
"And it was a favor to me - think of that!" was Martin's
"Let me see - where were you born, Mr. Eden?" the cub asked,
assuming an air of expectant attention.
"He doesn't take notes," said Brissenden. "He remembers it all."
"That is sufficient for me." The cub was trying not to look
worried. "No decent reporter needs to bother with notes."
"That was sufficient - for last night." But Brissenden was not a
disciple of quietism, and he changed his attitude abruptly.
"Martin, if you don't poke him, I'll do it myself, if I fall dead
on the floor the next moment."
"How will a spanking do?" Martin asked.
Brissenden considered judicially, and nodded his head.
The next instant Martin was seated on the edge of the bed with the
cub face downward across his knees.
"Now don't bite," Martin warned, "or else I'll have to punch your
face. It would be a pity, for it is such a pretty face."
His uplifted hand descended, and thereafter rose and fell in a
swift and steady rhythm. The cub struggled and cursed and
squirmed, but did not offer to bite. Brissenden looked on gravely,
though once he grew excited and gripped the whiskey bottle,
pleading, "Here, just let me swat him once."
"Sorry my hand played out," Martin said, when at last he desisted.
"It is quite numb."
He uprighted the cub and perched him on the bed.
"I'll have you arrested for this," he snarled, tears of boyish
indignation running down his flushed cheeks. "I'll make you sweat
for this. You'll see."
"The pretty thing," Martin remarked. "He doesn't realize that he
has entered upon the downward path. It is not honest, it is not
square, it is not manly, to tell lies about one's fellow-creatures
the way he has done, and he doesn't know it."
"He has to come to us to be told," Brissenden filled in a pause.
"Yes, to me whom he has maligned and injured. My grocery will
undoubtedly refuse me credit now. The worst of it is that the poor
boy will keep on this way until he deteriorates into a first-class
newspaper man and also a first-class scoundrel."
"But there is yet time," quoth Brissenden. "Who knows but what you
may prove the humble instrument to save him. Why didn't you let me
swat him just once? I'd like to have had a hand in it."
"I'll have you arrested, the pair of you, you b-b-big brutes,"
sobbed the erring soul.
"No, his mouth is too pretty and too weak." Martin shook his head
lugubriously. "I'm afraid I've numbed my hand in vain. The young
man cannot reform. He will become eventually a very great and
successful newspaper man. He has no conscience. That alone will
make him great."
With that the cub passed out the door in trepidation to the last
for fear that Brissenden would hit him in the back with the bottle
he still clutched.
In the next morning's paper Martin learned a great deal more about
himself that was new to him. "We are the sworn enemies of
society," he found himself quoted as saying in a column interview.
"No, we are not anarchists but socialists." When the reporter
pointed out to him that there seemed little difference between the
two schools, Martin had shrugged his shoulders in silent
affirmation. His face was described as bilaterally asymmetrical,
and various other signs of degeneration were described. Especially
notable were his thuglike hands and the fiery gleams in his blood-
He learned, also, that he spoke nightly to the workmen in the City
Hall Park, and that among the anarchists and agitators that there
inflamed the minds of the people he drew the largest audiences and
made the most revolutionary speeches. The cub painted a high-light
picture of his poor little room, its oil-stove and the one chair,
and of the death's-head tramp who kept him company and who looked
as if he had just emerged from twenty years of solitary confinement
in some fortress dungeon.
The cub had been industrious. He had scurried around and nosed out
Martin's family history, and procured a photograph of
Higginbotham's Cash Store with Bernard Higginbotham himself
standing out in front. That gentleman was depicted as an
intelligent, dignified businessman who had no patience with his
brother-in-law's socialistic views, and no patience with the
brother-in-law, either, whom he was quoted as characterizing as a
lazy good-for-nothing who wouldn't take a job when it was offered
to him and who would go to jail yet. Hermann Yon Schmidt, Marian's
husband, had likewise been interviewed. He had called Martin the
black sheep of the family and repudiated him. "He tried to sponge
off of me, but I put a stop to that good and quick," Von Schmidt
had said to the reporter. "He knows better than to come bumming
around here. A man who won't work is no good, take that from me."
This time Martin was genuinely angry. Brissenden looked upon the
affair as a good joke, but he could not console Martin, who knew
that it would be no easy task to explain to Ruth. As for her
father, he knew that he must be overjoyed with what had happened
and that he would make the most of it to break off the engagement.
How much he would make of it he was soon to realize. The afternoon
mail brought a letter from Ruth. Martin opened it with a
premonition of disaster, and read it standing at the open door when
he had received it from the postman. As he read, mechanically his
hand sought his pocket for the tobacco and brown paper of his old
cigarette days. He was not aware that the pocket was empty or that
he had even reached for the materials with which to roll a
It was not a passionate letter. There were no touches of anger in
it. But all the way through, from the first sentence to the last,
was sounded the note of hurt and disappointment. She had expected
better of him. She had thought he had got over his youthful
wildness, that her love for him had been sufficiently worth while
to enable him to live seriously and decently. And now her father
and mother had taken a firm stand and commanded that the engagement
be broken. That they were justified in this she could not but
admit. Their relation could never be a happy one. It had been
unfortunate from the first. But one regret she voiced in the whole
letter, and it was a bitter one to Martin. "If only you had
settled down to some position and attempted to make something of
yourself," she wrote. "But it was not to be. Your past life had
been too wild and irregular. I can understand that you are not to
be blamed. You could act only according to your nature and your
early training. So I do not blame you, Martin. Please remember
that. It was simply a mistake. As father and mother have
contended, we were not made for each other, and we should both be
happy because it was discovered not too late." . . "There is no use
trying to see me," she said toward the last. "It would be an
unhappy meeting for both of us, as well as for my mother. I feel,
as it is, that I have caused her great pain and worry. I shall
have to do much living to atone for it."
He read it through to the end, carefully, a second time, then sat
down and replied. He outlined the remarks he had uttered at the
socialist meeting, pointing out that they were in all ways the
converse of what the newspaper had put in his mouth. Toward the
end of the letter he was God's own lover pleading passionately for
love. "Please answer," he said, "and in your answer you have to
tell me but one thing. Do you love me? That is all - the answer
to that one question."
But no answer came the next day, nor the next. "Overdue" lay
untouched upon the table, and each day the heap of returned
manuscripts under the table grew larger. For the first time
Martin's glorious sleep was interrupted by insomnia, and he tossed
through long, restless nights. Three times he called at the Morse
home, but was turned away by the servant who answered the bell.
Brissenden lay sick in his hotel, too feeble to stir out, and,
though Martin was with him often, he did not worry him with his
For Martin's troubles were many. The aftermath of the cub
reporter's deed was even wider than Martin had anticipated. The
Portuguese grocer refused him further credit, while the
greengrocer, who was an American and proud of it, had called him a
traitor to his country and refused further dealings with him -
carrying his patriotism to such a degree that he cancelled Martin's
account and forbade him ever to attempt to pay it. The talk in the
neighborhood reflected the same feeling, and indignation against
Martin ran high. No one would have anything to do with a socialist
traitor. Poor Maria was dubious and frightened, but she remained
loyal. The children of the neighborhood recovered from the awe of
the grand carriage which once had visited Martin, and from safe
distances they called him "hobo" and "bum." The Silva tribe,
however, stanchly defended him, fighting more than one pitched
battle for his honor, and black eyes and bloody noses became quite
the order of the day and added to Maria's perplexities and
Once, Martin met Gertrude on the street, down in Oakland, and
learned what he knew could not be otherwise - that Bernard
Higginbotham was furious with him for having dragged the family
into public disgrace, and that he had forbidden him the house.
"Why don't you go away, Martin?" Gertrude had begged. "Go away and
get a job somewhere and steady down. Afterwards, when this all
blows over, you can come back."
Martin shook his head, but gave no explanations. How could he
explain? He was appalled at the awful intellectual chasm that
yawned between him and his people. He could never cross it and
explain to them his position, - the Nietzschean position, in regard
to socialism. There were not words enough in the English language,
nor in any language, to make his attitude and conduct intelligible
to them. Their highest concept of right conduct, in his case, was
to get a job. That was their first word and their last. It
constituted their whole lexicon of ideas. Get a job! Go to work!
Poor, stupid slaves, he thought, while his sister talked. Small
wonder the world belonged to the strong. The slaves were obsessed
by their own slavery. A job was to them a golden fetich before
which they fell down and worshipped.
He shook his head again, when Gertrude offered him money, though he
knew that within the day he would have to make a trip to the
"Don't come near Bernard now," she admonished him. "After a few
months, when he is cooled down, if you want to, you can get the job
of drivin' delivery-wagon for him. Any time you want me, just send
for me an' I'll come. Don't forget."
She went away weeping audibly, and he felt a pang of sorrow shoot
through him at sight of her heavy body and uncouth gait. As he
watched her go, the Nietzschean edifice seemed to shake and totter.
The slave-class in the abstract was all very well, but it was not
wholly satisfactory when it was brought home to his own family.
And yet, if there was ever a slave trampled by the strong, that
slave was his sister Gertrude. He grinned savagely at the paradox.
A fine Nietzsche-man he was, to allow his intellectual concepts to
be shaken by the first sentiment or emotion that strayed along -
ay, to be shaken by the slave-morality itself, for that was what
his pity for his sister really was. The true noble men were above
pity and compassion. Pity and compassion had been generated in the
subterranean barracoons of the slaves and were no more than the
agony and sweat of the crowded miserables and weaklings.
"Overdue" still continued to lie forgotten on the table. Every
manuscript that he had had out now lay under the table. Only one
manuscript he kept going, and that was Brissenden's "Ephemera."
His bicycle and black suit were again in pawn, and the type-writer
people were once more worrying about the rent. But such things no
longer bothered him. He was seeking a new orientation, and until
that was found his life must stand still.
After several weeks, what he had been waiting for happened. He met
Ruth on the street. It was true, she was accompanied by her
brother, Norman, and it was true that they tried to ignore him and
that Norman attempted to wave him aside.
"If you interfere with my sister, I'll call an officer," Norman
threatened. "She does not wish to speak with you, and your
insistence is insult."
"If you persist, you'll have to call that officer, and then you'll
get your name in the papers," Martin answered grimly. "And now,
get out of my way and get the officer if you want to. I'm going to
talk with Ruth."
"I want to have it from your own lips," he said to her.
She was pale and trembling, but she held up and looked inquiringly.
"The question I asked in my letter," he prompted.
Norman made an impatient movement, but Martin checked him with a
She shook her head.
"Is all this of your own free will?" he demanded.
"It is." She spoke in a low, firm voice and with deliberation.
"It is of my own free will. You have disgraced me so that I am
ashamed to meet my friends. They are all talking about me, I know.
That is all I can tell you. You have made me very unhappy, and I
never wish to see you again."
"Friends! Gossip! Newspaper misreports! Surely such things are
not stronger than love! I can only believe that you never loved
A blush drove the pallor from her face.
"After what has passed?" she said faintly. "Martin, you do not
know what you are saying. I am not common."
"You see, she doesn't want to have anything to do with you," Norman
blurted out, starting on with her.
Martin stood aside and let them pass, fumbling unconsciously in his
coat pocket for the tobacco and brown papers that were not there.
It was a long walk to North Oakland, but it was not until he went
up the steps and entered his room that he knew he had walked it.
He found himself sitting on the edge of the bed and staring about
him like an awakened somnambulist. He noticed "Overdue" lying on
the table and drew up his chair and reached for his pen. There was
in his nature a logical compulsion toward completeness. Here was
something undone. It had been deferred against the completion of
something else. Now that something else had been finished, and he
would apply himself to this task until it was finished. What he
would do next he did not know. All that he did know was that a
climacteric in his life had been attained. A period had been
reached, and he was rounding it off in workman-like fashion. He
was not curious about the future. He would soon enough find out
what it held in store for him. Whatever it was, it did not matter.
Nothing seemed to matter.
For five days he toiled on at "Overdue," going nowhere, seeing
nobody, and eating meagrely. On the morning of the sixth day the
postman brought him a thin letter from the editor of THE PARTHENON.
A glance told him that "Ephemera" was accepted. "We have submitted
the poem to Mr. Cartwright Bruce," the editor went on to say, "and
he has reported so favorably upon it that we cannot let it go. As
an earnest of our pleasure in publishing the poem, let me tell you
that we have set it for the August number, our July number being
already made up. Kindly extend our pleasure and our thanks to Mr.
Brissenden. Please send by return mail his photograph and
biographical data. If our honorarium is unsatisfactory, kindly
telegraph us at once and state what you consider a fair price."
Since the honorarium they had offered was three hundred and fifty
dollars, Martin thought it not worth while to telegraph. Then,
too, there was Brissenden's consent to be gained. Well, he had
been right, after all. Here was one magazine editor who knew real
poetry when he saw it. And the price was splendid, even though it
was for the poem of a century. As for Cartwright Bruce, Martin
knew that he was the one critic for whose opinions Brissenden had
Martin rode down town on an electric car, and as he watched the
houses and cross-streets slipping by he was aware of a regret that
he was not more elated over his friend's success and over his own
signal victory. The one critic in the United States had pronounced
favorably on the poem, while his own contention that good stuff
could find its way into the magazines had proved correct. But
enthusiasm had lost its spring in him, and he found that he was
more anxious to see Brissenden than he was to carry the good news.
The acceptance of THE PARTHENON had recalled to him that during his
five days' devotion to "Overdue" he had not heard from Brissenden
nor even thought about him. For the first time Martin realized the
daze he had been in, and he felt shame for having forgotten his
friend. But even the shame did not burn very sharply. He was numb
to emotions of any sort save the artistic ones concerned in the
writing of "Overdue." So far as other affairs were concerned, he
had been in a trance. For that matter, he was still in a trance.
All this life through which the electric car whirred seemed remote
and unreal, and he would have experienced little interest and less
shook if the great stone steeple of the church he passed had
suddenly crumbled to mortar-dust upon his head.
At the hotel he hurried up to Brissenden's room, and hurried down
again. The room was empty. All luggage was gone.
"Did Mr. Brissenden leave any address?" he asked the clerk, who
looked at him curiously for a moment.
"Haven't you heard?" he asked.
Martin shook his head.
"Why, the papers were full of it. He was found dead in bed.
Suicide. Shot himself through the head."
"Is he buried yet?" Martin seemed to hear his voice, like some one
else's voice, from a long way off, asking the question.
"No. The body was shipped East after the inquest. Lawyers engaged
by his people saw to the arrangements."
"They were quick about it, I must say," Martin commented.
"Oh, I don't know. It happened five days ago."
"Five days ago?"
"Yes, five days ago."
"Oh," Martin said as he turned and went out.
At the corner he stepped into the Western Union and sent a telegram
to THE PARTHENON, advising them to proceed with the publication of
the poem. He had in his pocket but five cents with which to pay
his carfare home, so he sent the message collect.
Once in his room, he resumed his writing. The days and nights came
and went, and he sat at his table and wrote on. He went nowhere,
save to the pawnbroker, took no exercise, and ate methodically when
he was hungry and had something to cook, and just as methodically
went without when he had nothing to cook. Composed as the story
was, in advance, chapter by chapter, he nevertheless saw and
developed an opening that increased the power of it, though it
necessitated twenty thousand additional words. It was not that
there was any vital need that the thing should be well done, but
that his artistic canons compelled him to do it well. He worked on
in the daze, strangely detached from the world around him, feeling
like a familiar ghost among these literary trappings of his former
life. He remembered that some one had said that a ghost was the
spirit of a man who was dead and who did not have sense enough to
know it; and he paused for the moment to wonder if he were really
dead did unaware of it.
Came the day when "Overdue" was finished. The agent of the type-
writer firm had come for the machine, and he sat on the bed while
Martin, on the one chair, typed the last pages of the final
chapter. "Finis," he wrote, in capitals, at the end, and to him it
was indeed finis. He watched the type-writer carried out the door
with a feeling of relief, then went over and lay down on the bed.
He was faint from hunger. Food had not passed his lips in thirty-
six hours, but he did not think about it. He lay on his back, with
closed eyes, and did not think at all, while the daze or stupor
slowly welled up, saturating his consciousness. Half in delirium,
he began muttering aloud the lines of an anonymous poem Brissenden
had been fond of quoting to him. Maria, listening anxiously
outside his door, was perturbed by his monotonous utterance. The
words in themselves were not significant to her, but the fact that
he was saying them was. "I have done," was the burden of the poem.
"'I have done -
Put by the lute.
Song and singing soon are over
As the airy shades that hover
In among the purple clover.
I have done -
Put by the lute.
Once I sang as early thrushes
Sing among the dewy bushes;
Now I'm mute.
I am like a weary linnet,
For my throat has no song in it;
I have had my singing minute.
I have done.
Put by the lute.'"
Maria could stand it no longer, and hurried away to the stove,
where she filled a quart-bowl with soup, putting into it the lion's
share of chopped meat and vegetables which her ladle scraped from
the bottom of the pot. Martin roused himself and sat up and began
to eat, between spoonfuls reassuring Maria that he had not been
talking in his sleep and that he did not have any fever.
After she left him he sat drearily, with drooping shoulders, on the
edge of the bed, gazing about him with lack-lustre eyes that saw
nothing until the torn wrapper of a magazine, which had come in the
morning's mail and which lay unopened, shot a gleam of light into
his darkened brain. It is THE PARTHENON, he thought, the August
PARTHENON, and it must contain "Ephemera." If only Brissenden were
here to see!
He was turning the pages of the magazine, when suddenly he stopped.
"Ephemera" had been featured, with gorgeous head-piece and
Beardsley-like margin decorations. On one side of the head-piece
was Brissenden's photograph, on the other side was the photograph
of Sir John Value, the British Ambassador. A preliminary editorial
note quoted Sir John Value as saying that there were no poets in
America, and the publication of "Ephemera" was THE PARTHENON'S.
"There, take that, Sir John Value!" Cartwright Bruce was described
as the greatest critic in America, and he was quoted as saying that
"Ephemera" was the greatest poem ever written in America. And
finally, the editor's foreword ended with: "We have not yet made
up our minds entirely as to the merits of "Ephemera"; perhaps we
shall never be able to do so. But we have read it often, wondering
at the words and their arrangement, wondering where Mr. Brissenden
got them, and how he could fasten them together." Then followed
"Pretty good thing you died, Briss, old man," Martin murmured,
letting the magazine slip between his knees to the floor.
The cheapness and vulgarity of it was nauseating, and Martin noted
apathetically that he was not nauseated very much. He wished he
could get angry, but did not have energy enough to try. He was too
numb. His blood was too congealed to accelerate to the swift tidal
flow of indignation. After all, what did it matter? It was on a
par with all the rest that Brissenden had condemned in bourgeois
"Poor Briss," Martin communed; "he would never have forgiven me."
Rousing himself with an effort, he possessed himself of a box which
had once contained type-writer paper. Going through its contents,
he drew forth eleven poems which his friend had written. These he
tore lengthwise and crosswise and dropped into the waste basket.
He did it languidly, and, when he had finished, sat on the edge of
the bed staring blankly before him.
How long he sat there he did not know, until, suddenly, across his
sightless vision he saw form a long horizontal line of white. It
was curious. But as he watched it grow in definiteness he saw that
it was a coral reef smoking in the white Pacific surges. Next, in
the line of breakers he made out a small canoe, an outrigger canoe.
In the stern he saw a young bronzed god in scarlet hip-cloth
dipping a flashing paddle. He recognized him. He was Moti, the
youngest son of Tati, the chief, and this was Tahiti, and beyond
that smoking reef lay the sweet land of Papara and the chief's
grass house by the river's mouth. It was the end of the day, and
Moti was coming home from the fishing. He was waiting for the rush
of a big breaker whereon to jump the reef. Then he saw himself,
sitting forward in the canoe as he had often sat in the past,
dipping a paddle that waited Moti's word to dig in like mad when
the turquoise wall of the great breaker rose behind them. Next, he
was no longer an onlooker but was himself in the canoe, Moti was
crying out, they were both thrusting hard with their paddles,
racing on the steep face of the flying turquoise. Under the bow
the water was hissing as from a steam jet, the air was filled with
driven spray, there was a rush and rumble and long-echoing roar,
and the canoe floated on the placid water of the lagoon. Moti
laughed and shook the salt water from his eyes, and together they
paddled in to the pounded-coral beach where Tati's grass walls
through the cocoanut-palms showed golden in the setting sun.
The picture faded, and before his eyes stretched the disorder of
his squalid room. He strove in vain to see Tahiti again. He knew
there was singing among the trees and that the maidens were dancing
in the moonlight, but he could not see them. He could see only the
littered writing-table, the empty space where the type-writer had
stood, and the unwashed window-pane. He closed his eyes with a
groan, and slept.
He slept heavily all night, and did not stir until aroused by the
postman on his morning round. Martin felt tired and passive, and
went through his letters aimlessly. One thin envelope, from a
robber magazine, contained for twenty-two dollars. He had been
dunning for it for a year and a half. He noted its amount
apathetically. The old-time thrill at receiving a publisher's
check was gone. Unlike his earlier checks, this one was not
pregnant with promise of great things to come. To him it was a
check for twenty-two dollars, that was all, and it would buy him
something to eat.
Another check was in the same mail, sent from a New York weekly in
payment for some humorous verse which had been accepted months
before. It was for ten dollars. An idea came to him, which he
calmly considered. He did not know what he was going to do, and he
felt in no hurry to do anything. In the meantime he must live.
Also he owed numerous debts. Would it not be a paying investment
to put stamps on the huge pile of manuscripts under the table and
start them on their travels again? One or two of them might be
accepted. That would help him to live. He decided on the
investment, and, after he had cashed the checks at the bank down in
Oakland, he bought ten dollars' worth of postage stamps. The
thought of going home to cook breakfast in his stuffy little room
was repulsive to him. For the first time he refused to consider
his debts. He knew that in his room he could manufacture a
substantial breakfast at a cost of from fifteen to twenty cents.
But, instead, he went into the Forum Cafe and ordered a breakfast
that cost two dollars. He tipped the waiter a quarter, and spent
fifty cents for a package of Egyptian cigarettes. It was the first
time he had smoked since Ruth had asked him to stop. But he could
see now no reason why he should not, and besides, he wanted to
smoke. And what did the money matter? For five cents he could
have bought a package of Durham and brown papers and rolled forty
cigarettes - but what of it? Money had no meaning to him now
except what it would immediately buy. He was chartless and
rudderless, and he had no port to make, while drifting involved the
least living, and it was living that hurt.
The days slipped along, and he slept eight hours regularly every
night. Though now, while waiting for more checks, he ate in the
Japanese restaurants where meals were served for ten cents, his
wasted body filled out, as did the hollows in his cheeks. He no
longer abused himself with short sleep, overwork, and overstudy.
He wrote nothing, and the books were closed. He walked much, out
in the hills, and loafed long hours in the quiet parks. He had no
friends nor acquaintances, nor did he make any. He had no
inclination. He was waiting for some impulse, from he knew not
where, to put his stopped life into motion again. In the meantime
his life remained run down, planless, and empty and idle.
Once he made a trip to San Francisco to look up the "real dirt."
But at the last moment, as he stepped into the upstairs entrance,
he recoiled and turned and fled through the swarming ghetto. He
was frightened at the thought of hearing philosophy discussed, and
he fled furtively, for fear that some one of the "real dirt" might
chance along and recognize him.
Sometimes he glanced over the magazines and newspapers to see how
"Ephemera" was being maltreated. It had made a hit. But what a
hit! Everybody had read it, and everybody was discussing whether
or not it was really poetry. The local papers had taken it up, and
daily there appeared columns of learned criticisms, facetious
editorials, and serious letters from subscribers. Helen Della
Delmar (proclaimed with a flourish of trumpets and rolling of
tomtoms to be the greatest woman poet in the United States) denied
Brissenden a seat beside her on Pegasus and wrote voluminous
letters to the public, proving that he was no poet.
THE PARTHENON came out in its next number patting itself on the
back for the stir it had made, sneering at Sir John Value, and
exploiting Brissenden's death with ruthless commercialism. A
newspaper with a sworn circulation of half a million published an
original and spontaneous poem by Helen Della Delmar, in which she
gibed and sneered at Brissenden. Also, she was guilty of a second
poem, in which she parodied him.
Martin had many times to be glad that Brissenden was dead. He had
hated the crowd so, and here all that was finest and most sacred of
him had been thrown to the crowd. Daily the vivisection of Beauty
went on. Every nincompoop in the land rushed into free print,
floating their wizened little egos into the public eye on the surge
of Brissenden's greatness. Quoth one paper: "We have received a
letter from a gentleman who wrote a poem just like it, only better,
some time ago." Another paper, in deadly seriousness, reproving
Helen Della Delmar for her parody, said: "But unquestionably Miss
Delmar wrote it in a moment of badinage and not quite with the
respect that one great poet should show to another and perhaps to
the greatest. However, whether Miss Delmar be jealous or not of
the man who invented 'Ephemera,' it is certain that she, like
thousands of others, is fascinated by his work, and that the day
may come when she will try to write lines like his."
Ministers began to preach sermons against "Ephemera," and one, who
too stoutly stood for much of its content, was expelled for heresy.
The great poem contributed to the gayety of the world. The comic
verse-writers and the cartoonists took hold of it with screaming
laughter, and in the personal columns of society weeklies jokes
were perpetrated on it to the effect that Charley Frensham told
Archie Jennings, in confidence, that five lines of "Ephemera" would
drive a man to beat a cripple, and that ten lines would send him to
the bottom of the river.
Martin did not laugh; nor did he grit his teeth in anger. The
effect produced upon him was one of great sadness. In the crash of
his whole world, with love on the pinnacle, the crash of
magazinedom and the dear public was a small crash indeed.
Brissenden had been wholly right in his judgment of the magazines,
and he, Martin, had spent arduous and futile years in order to find
it out for himself. The magazines were all Brissenden had said
they were and more. Well, he was done, he solaced himself. He had
hitched his wagon to a star and been landed in a pestiferous marsh.
The visions of Tahiti - clean, sweet Tahiti - were coming to him
more frequently. And there were the low Paumotus, and the high
Marquesas; he saw himself often, now, on board trading schooners or
frail little cutters, slipping out at dawn through the reef at
Papeete and beginning the long beat through the pearl-atolls to
Nukahiva and the Bay of Taiohae, where Tamari, he knew, would kill
a pig in honor of his coming, and where Tamari's flower-garlanded
daughters would seize his hands and with song and laughter garland
him with flowers. The South Seas were calling, and he knew that
sooner or later he would answer the call.
In the meantime he drifted, resting and recuperating after the long
traverse he had made through the realm of knowledge. When THE
PARTHENON check of three hundred and fifty dollars was forwarded to
him, he turned it over to the local lawyer who had attended to
Brissenden's affairs for his family. Martin took a receipt for the
check, and at the same time gave a note for the hundred dollars
Brissenden had let him have.
The time was not long when Martin ceased patronizing the Japanese
restaurants. At the very moment when he had abandoned the fight,
the tide turned. But it had turned too late. Without a thrill he
opened a thick envelope from THE MILLENNIUM, scanned the face of a
check that represented three hundred dollars, and noted that it was
the payment on acceptance for "Adventure." Every debt he owed in
the world, including the pawnshop, with its usurious interest,
amounted to less than a hundred dollars. And when he had paid
everything, and lifted the hundred-dollar note with Brissenden's
lawyer, he still had over a hundred dollars in pocket. He ordered
a suit of clothes from the tailor and ate his meals in the best
cafes in town. He still slept in his little room at Maria's, but
the sight of his new clothes caused the neighborhood children to
cease from calling him "hobo" and "tramp" from the roofs of
woodsheds and over back fences.
"Wiki-Wiki," his Hawaiian short story, was bought by WARREN'S
MONTHLY for two hundred and fifty dollars. THE NORTHERN REVIEW
took his essay, "The Cradle of Beauty," and MACKINTOSH'S MAGAZINE
took "The Palmist" - the poem he had written to Marian. The
editors and readers were back from their summer vacations, and
manuscripts were being handled quickly. But Martin could not
puzzle out what strange whim animated them to this general
acceptance of the things they had persistently rejected for two
years. Nothing of his had been published. He was not known
anywhere outside of Oakland, and in Oakland, with the few who
thought they knew him, he was notorious as a red-shirt and a
socialist. So there was no explaining this sudden acceptability of
his wares. It was sheer jugglery of fate.
After it had been refused by a number of magazines, he had taken
Brissenden's rejected advice and started, "The Shame of the Sun" on
the round of publishers. After several refusals, Singletree,
Darnley & Co. accepted it, promising fall publication. When Martin
asked for an advance on royalties, they wrote that such was not
their custom, that books of that nature rarely paid for themselves,
and that they doubted if his book would sell a thousand copies.
Martin figured what the book would earn him on such a sale.
Retailed at a dollar, on a royalty of fifteen per cent, it would
bring him one hundred and fifty dollars. He decided that if he had
it to do over again he would confine himself to fiction.
"Adventure," one-fourth as long, had brought him twice as much from
THE MILLENNIUM. That newspaper paragraph he had read so long ago
had been true, after all. The first-class magazines did not pay on
acceptance, and they paid well. Not two cents a word, but four
cents a word, had THE MILLENNIUM paid him. And, furthermore, they
bought good stuff, too, for were they not buying his? This last
thought he accompanied with a grin.
He wrote to Singletree, Darnley & Co., offering to sell out his
rights in "The Shame of the Sun" for a hundred dollars, but they
did not care to take the risk. In the meantime he was not in need
of money, for several of his later stories had been accepted and
paid for. He actually opened a bank account, where, without a debt
in the world, he had several hundred dollars to his credit.
"Overdue," after having been declined by a number of magazines,
came to rest at the Meredith-Lowell Company. Martin remembered the
five dollars Gertrude had given him, and his resolve to return it
to her a hundred times over; so he wrote for an advance on
royalties of five hundred dollars. To his surprise a check for
that amount, accompanied by a contract, came by return mail. He
cashed the check into five-dollar gold pieces and telephoned
Gertrude that he wanted to see her.
She arrived at the house panting and short of breath from the haste
she had made. Apprehensive of trouble, she had stuffed the few
dollars she possessed into her hand-satchel; and so sure was she
that disaster had overtaken her brother, that she stumbled forward,
sobbing, into his arms, at the same time thrusting the satchel
mutely at him.
"I'd have come myself," he said. "But I didn't want a row with Mr.
Higginbotham, and that is what would have surely happened."
"He'll be all right after a time," she assured him, while she
wondered what the trouble was that Martin was in. "But you'd best
get a job first an' steady down. Bernard does like to see a man at
honest work. That stuff in the newspapers broke 'm all up. I
never saw 'm so mad before."
"I'm not going to get a job," Martin said with a smile. "And you
can tell him so from me. I don't need a job, and there's the proof
He emptied the hundred gold pieces into her lap in a glinting,
"You remember that fiver you gave me the time I didn't have
carfare? Well, there it is, with ninety-nine brothers of different
ages but all of the same size."
If Gertrude had been frightened when she arrived, she was now in a
panic of fear. Her fear was such that it was certitude. She was
not suspicious. She was convinced. She looked at Martin in
horror, and her heavy limbs shrank under the golden stream as
though it were burning her.
"It's yours," he laughed.
She burst into tears, and began to moan, "My poor boy, my poor
He was puzzled for a moment. Then he divined the cause of her
agitation and handed her the Meredith-Lowell letter which had
accompanied the check. She stumbled through it, pausing now and
again to wipe her eyes, and when she had finished, said:-
"An' does it mean that you come by the money honestly?"
"More honestly than if I'd won it in a lottery. I earned it."
Slowly faith came back to her, and she reread the letter carefully.
It took him long to explain to her the nature of the transaction
which had put the money into his possession, and longer still to
get her to understand that the money was really hers and that he
did not need it.
"I'll put it in the bank for you," she said finally.
"You'll do nothing of the sort. It's yours, to do with as you
please, and if you won't take it, I'll give it to Maria. She'll
know what to do with it. I'd suggest, though, that you hire a
servant and take a good long rest."
"I'm goin' to tell Bernard all about it," she announced, when she
Martin winced, then grinned.
"Yes, do," he said. "And then, maybe, he'll invite me to dinner
"Yes, he will - I'm sure he will!" she exclaimed fervently, as she
drew him to her and kissed and hugged him.
One day Martin became aware that he was lonely. He was healthy and
strong, and had nothing to do. The cessation from writing and
studying, the death of Brissenden, and the estrangement from Ruth
had made a big hole in his life; and his life refused to be pinned
down to good living in cafes and the smoking of Egyptian
cigarettes. It was true the South Seas were calling to him, but he
had a feeling that the game was not yet played out in the United
States. Two books were soon to be published, and he had more books
that might find publication. Money could be made out of them, and
he would wait and take a sackful of it into the South Seas. He
knew a valley and a bay in the Marquesas that he could buy for a
thousand Chili dollars. The valley ran from the horseshoe, land-
locked bay to the tops of the dizzy, cloud-capped peaks and
contained perhaps ten thousand acres. It was filled with tropical
fruits, wild chickens, and wild pigs, with an occasional herd of
wild cattle, while high up among the peaks were herds of wild goats
harried by packs of wild dogs. The whole place was wild. Not a
human lived in it. And he could buy it and the bay for a thousand
The bay, as he remembered it, was magnificent, with water deep
enough to accommodate the largest vessel afloat, and so safe that
the South Pacific Directory recommended it to the best careening
place for ships for hundreds of miles around. He would buy a
schooner - one of those yacht-like, coppered crafts that sailed
like witches - and go trading copra and pearling among the islands.
He would make the valley and the bay his headquarters. He would
build a patriarchal grass house like Tati's, and have it and the
valley and the schooner filled with dark-skinned servitors. He
would entertain there the factor of Taiohae, captains of wandering
traders, and all the best of the South Pacific riffraff. He would
keep open house and entertain like a prince. And he would forget
the books he had opened and the world that had proved an illusion.
To do all this he must wait in California to fill the sack with
money. Already it was beginning to flow in. If one of the books
made a strike, it might enable him to sell the whole heap of
manuscripts. Also he could collect the stories and the poems into
books, and make sure of the valley and the bay and the schooner.
He would never write again. Upon that he was resolved. But in the
meantime, awaiting the publication of the books, he must do
something more than live dazed and stupid in the sort of uncaring
trance into which he had fallen.
He noted, one Sunday morning, that the Bricklayers' Picnic took
place that day at Shell Mound Park, and to Shell Mound Park he
went. He had been to the working-class picnics too often in his
earlier life not to know what they were like, and as he entered the
park he experienced a recrudescence of all the old sensations.
After all, they were his kind, these working people. He had been
born among them, he had lived among them, and though he had strayed
for a time, it was well to come back among them.
"If it ain't Mart!" he heard some one say, and the next moment a
hearty hand was on his shoulder. "Where you ben all the time? Off
to sea? Come on an' have a drink."
It was the old crowd in which he found himself - the old crowd,
with here and there a gap, and here and there a new face. The
fellows were not bricklayers, but, as in the old days, they
attended all Sunday picnics for the dancing, and the fighting, and
the fun. Martin drank with them, and began to feel really human
once more. He was a fool to have ever left them, he thought; and
he was very certain that his sum of happiness would have been
greater had he remained with them and let alone the books and the
people who sat in the high places. Yet the beer seemed not so good
as of yore. It didn't taste as it used to taste. Brissenden had
spoiled him for steam beer, he concluded, and wondered if, after
all, the books had spoiled him for companionship with these friends
of his youth. He resolved that he would not be so spoiled, and he
went on to the dancing pavilion. Jimmy, the plumber, he met there,
in the company of a tall, blond girl who promptly forsook him for
"Gee, it's like old times," Jimmy explained to the gang that gave
him the laugh as Martin and the blonde whirled away in a waltz.
"An' I don't give a rap. I'm too damned glad to see 'm back.
Watch 'm waltz, eh? It's like silk. Who'd blame any girl?"
But Martin restored the blonde to Jimmy, and the three of them,
with half a dozen friends, watched the revolving couples and
laughed and joked with one another. Everybody was glad to see
Martin back. No book of his been published; he carried no
fictitious value in their eyes. They liked him for himself. He
felt like a prince returned from excile, and his lonely heart
burgeoned in the geniality in which it bathed. He made a mad day
of it, and was at his best. Also, he had money in his pockets,
and, as in the old days when he returned from sea with a pay-day,
he made the money fly.
Once, on the dancing-floor, he saw Lizzie Connolly go by in the
arms of a young workingman; and, later, when he made the round of
the pavilion, he came upon her sitting by a refreshment table.
Surprise and greetings over, he led her away into the grounds,
where they could talk without shouting down the music. From the
instant he spoke to her, she was his. He knew it. She showed it
in the proud humility of her eyes, in every caressing movement of
her proudly carried body, and in the way she hung upon his speech.
She was not the young girl as he had known her. She was a woman,
now, and Martin noted that her wild, defiant beauty had improved,
losing none of its wildness, while the defiance and the fire seemed
more in control. "A beauty, a perfect beauty," he murmured
admiringly under his breath. And he knew she was his, that all he
had to do was to say "Come," and she would go with him over the
world wherever he led.
Even as the thought flashed through his brain he received a heavy
blow on the side of his head that nearly knocked him down. It was
a man's fist, directed by a man so angry and in such haste that the
fist had missed the jaw for which it was aimed. Martin turned as
he staggered, and saw the fist coming at him in a wild swing.
Quite as a matter of course he ducked, and the fist flew harmlessly
past, pivoting the man who had driven it. Martin hooked with his
left, landing on the pivoting man with the weight of his body
behind the blow. The man went to the ground sidewise, leaped to
his feet, and made a mad rush. Martin saw his passion-distorted
face and wondered what could be the cause of the fellow's anger.
But while he wondered, he shot in a straight left, the weight of
his body behind the blow. The man went over backward and fell in a
crumpled heap. Jimmy and others of the gang were running toward
Martin was thrilling all over. This was the old days with a
vengeance, with their dancing, and their fighting, and their fun.
While he kept a wary eye on his antagonist, he glanced at Lizzie.
Usually the girls screamed when the fellows got to scrapping, but
she had not screamed. She was looking on with bated breath,
leaning slightly forward, so keen was her interest, one hand
pressed to her breast, her cheek flushed, and in her eyes a great
and amazed admiration.
The man had gained his feet and was struggling to escape the
restraining arms that were laid on him.
"She was waitin' for me to come back!" he was proclaiming to all
and sundry. "She was waitin' for me to come back, an' then that
fresh guy comes buttin' in. Let go o' me, I tell yeh. I'm goin'
to fix 'm."
"What's eatin' yer?" Jimmy was demanding, as he helped hold the
young fellow back. "That guy's Mart Eden. He's nifty with his
mits, lemme tell you that, an' he'll eat you alive if you monkey
"He can't steal her on me that way," the other interjected.
"He licked the Flyin' Dutchman, an' you know HIM," Jimmy went on
expostulating. "An' he did it in five rounds. You couldn't last a
minute against him. See?"
This information seemed to have a mollifying effect, and the irate
young man favored Martin with a measuring stare.
"He don't look it," he sneered; but the sneer was without passion.
"That's what the Flyin' Dutchman thought," Jimmy assured him.
"Come on, now, let's get outa this. There's lots of other girls.
The young fellow allowed himself to be led away toward the
pavilion, and the gang followed after him.
"Who is he?" Martin asked Lizzie. "And what's it all about,
Already the zest of combat, which of old had been so keen and
lasting, had died down, and he discovered that he was self-
analytical, too much so to live, single heart and single hand, so
primitive an existence.
Lizzie tossed her head.
"Oh, he's nobody," she said. "He's just ben keepin' company with
"I had to, you see," she explained after a pause. "I was gettin'
pretty lonesome. But I never forgot." Her voice sank lower, and
she looked straight before her. "I'd throw 'm down for you any
Martin looking at her averted face, knowing that all he had to do
was to reach out his hand and pluck her, fell to pondering whether,
after all, there was any real worth in refined, grammatical
English, and, so, forgot to reply to her.
"You put it all over him," she said tentatively, with a laugh.
"He's a husky young fellow, though," he admitted generously. "If
they hadn't taken him away, he might have given me my hands full."
"Who was that lady friend I seen you with that night?" she asked
"Oh, just a lady friend," was his answer.
"It was a long time ago," she murmured contemplatively. "It seems
like a thousand years."
But Martin went no further into the matter. He led the
conversation off into other channels. They had lunch in the
restaurant, where he ordered wine and expensive delicacies and
afterward he danced with her and with no one but her, till she was
tired. He was a good dancer, and she whirled around and around
with him in a heaven of delight, her head against his shoulder,
wishing that it could last forever. Later in the afternoon they
strayed off among the trees, where, in the good old fashion, she
sat down while he sprawled on his back, his head in her lap. He
lay and dozed, while she fondled his hair, looked down on his
closed eyes, and loved him without reserve. Looking up suddenly,
he read the tender advertisement in her face. Her eyes fluttered
down, then they opened and looked into his with soft defiance.
"I've kept straight all these years," she said, her voice so low
that it was almost a whisper.
In his heart Martin knew that it was the miraculous truth. And at
his heart pleaded a great temptation. It was in his power to make
her happy. Denied happiness himself, why should he deny happiness
to her? He could marry her and take her down with him to dwell in
the grass-walled castle in the Marquesas. The desire to do it was
strong, but stronger still was the imperative command of his nature
not to do it. In spite of himself he was still faithful to Love.
The old days of license and easy living were gone. He could not
bring them back, nor could he go back to them. He was changed -
how changed he had not realized until now.
"I am not a marrying man, Lizzie," he said lightly.
The hand caressing his hair paused perceptibly, then went on with
the same gentle stroke. He noticed her face harden, but it was
with the hardness of resolution, for still the soft color was in
her cheeks and she was all glowing and melting.
"I did not mean that - " she began, then faltered. "Or anyway I
"I don't care," she repeated. "I'm proud to be your friend. I'd
do anything for you. I'm made that way, I guess."
Martin sat up. He took her hand in his. He did it deliberately,
with warmth but without passion; and such warmth chilled her.
"Don't let's talk about it," she said.
"You are a great and noble woman," he said. "And it is I who
should be proud to know you. And I am, I am. You are a ray of
light to me in a very dark world, and I've got to be straight with
you, just as straight as you have been."
"I don't care whether you're straight with me or not. You could do
anything with me. You could throw me in the dirt an' walk on me.
An' you're the only man in the world that can," she added with a
defiant flash. "I ain't taken care of myself ever since I was a
kid for nothin'."
"And it's just because of that that I'm not going to," he said
gently. "You are so big and generous that you challenge me to
equal generousness. I'm not marrying, and I'm not - well, loving
without marrying, though I've done my share of that in the past.
I'm sorry I came here to-day and met you. But it can't be helped
now, and I never expected it would turn out this way."
"But look here, Lizzie. I can't begin to tell you how much I like
you. I do more than like you. I admire and respect you. You are
magnificent, and you are magnificently good. But what's the use of
words? Yet there's something I'd like to do. You've had a hard
life; let me make it easy for you." (A joyous light welled into
her eyes, then faded out again.) "I'm pretty sure of getting hold
of some money soon - lots of it."
In that moment he abandoned the idea of the valley and the bay, the
grass-walled castle and the trim, white schooner. After all, what
did it matter? He could go away, as he had done so often, before
the mast, on any ship bound anywhere.
"I'd like to turn it over to you. There must be something you want
- to go to school or business college. You might like to study and
be a stenographer. I could fix it for you. Or maybe your father
and mother are living - I could set them up in a grocery store or
something. Anything you want, just name it, and I can fix it for
She made no reply, but sat, gazing straight before her, dry-eyed
and motionless, but with an ache in the throat which Martin divined
so strongly that it made his own throat ache. He regretted that he
had spoken. It seemed so tawdry what he had offered her - mere
money - compared with what she offered him. He offered her an
extraneous thing with which he could part without a pang, while she
offered him herself, along with disgrace and shame, and sin, and
all her hopes of heaven.
"Don't let's talk about it," she said with a catch in her voice
that she changed to a cough. She stood up. "Come on, let's go
home. I'm all tired out."
The day was done, and the merrymakers had nearly all departed. But
as Martin and Lizzie emerged from the trees they found the gang
waiting for them. Martin knew immediately the meaning of it.
Trouble was brewing. The gang was his body-guard. They passed out
through the gates of the park with, straggling in the rear, a
second gang, the friends that Lizzie's young man had collected to
avenge the loss of his lady. Several constables and special police
officers, anticipating trouble, trailed along to prevent it, and
herded the two gangs separately aboard the train for San Francisco.
Martin told Jimmy that he would get off at Sixteenth Street Station
and catch the electric car into Oakland. Lizzie was very quiet and
without interest in what was impending. The train pulled in to
Sixteenth Street Station, and the waiting electric car could be
seen, the conductor of which was impatiently clanging the gong.
"There she is," Jimmy counselled. "Make a run for it, an' we'll
hold 'em back. Now you go! Hit her up!"
The hostile gang was temporarily disconcerted by the manoeuvre,
then it dashed from the train in pursuit. The staid and sober
Oakland folk who sat upon the car scarcely noted the young fellow
and the girl who ran for it and found a seat in front on the
outside. They did not connect the couple with Jimmy, who sprang on
the steps, crying to the motorman:-
"Slam on the juice, old man, and beat it outa here!"
The next moment Jimmy whirled about, and the passengers saw him
land his fist on the face of a running man who was trying to board
the car. But fists were landing on faces the whole length of the
car. Thus, Jimmy and his gang, strung out on the long, lower
steps, met the attacking gang. The car started with a great
clanging of its gong, and, as Jimmy's gang drove off the last
assailants, they, too, jumped off to finish the job. The car
dashed on, leaving the flurry of combat far behind, and its
dumfounded passengers never dreamed that the quiet young man and
the pretty working-girl sitting in the corner on the outside seat
had been the cause of the row.
Martin had enjoyed the fight, with a recrudescence of the old
fighting thrills. But they quickly died away, and he was oppressed
by a great sadness. He felt very old - centuries older than those
careless, care-free young companions of his others days. He had
travelled far, too far to go back. Their mode of life, which had
once been his, was now distasteful to him. He was disappointed in
it all. He had developed into an alien. As the steam beer had
tasted raw, so their companionship seemed raw to him. He was too
far removed. Too many thousands of opened books yawned between
them and him. He had exiled himself. He had travelled in the vast
realm of intellect until he could no longer return home. On the
other hand, he was human, and his gregarious need for companionship
remained unsatisfied. He had found no new home. As the gang could
not understand him, as his own family could not understand him, as
the bourgeoisie could not understand him, so this girl beside him,
whom he honored high, could not understand him nor the honor he
paid her. His sadness was not untouched with bitterness as he
thought it over.
"Make it up with him," he advised Lizzie, at parting, as they stood
in front of the workingman's shack in which she lived, near Sixth
and Market. He referred to the young fellow whose place he had
usurped that day.
"I can't - now," she said.
"Oh, go on," he said jovially. "All you have to do is whistle and
he'll come running."
"I didn't mean that," she said simply.
And he knew what she had meant.
She leaned toward him as he was about to say good night. But she
leaned not imperatively, not seductively, but wistfully and humbly.
He was touched to the heart. His large tolerance rose up in him.
He put his arms around her, and kissed her, and knew that upon his
own lips rested as true a kiss as man ever received.
"My God!" she sobbed. "I could die for you. I could die for you."
She tore herself from him suddenly and ran up the steps. He felt a
quick moisture in his eyes.
"Martin Eden," he communed. "You're not a brute, and you're a damn
poor Nietzscheman. You'd marry her if you could and fill her
quivering heart full with happiness. But you can't, you can't.
And it's a damn shame."
"'A poor old tramp explains his poor old ulcers,'" he muttered,
remembering his Henly. "'Life is, I think, a blunder and a shame.'
It is - a blunder and a shame."
"The Shame of the Sun" was published in October. As Martin cut the
cords of the express package and the half-dozen complimentary
copies from the publishers spilled out on the table, a heavy
sadness fell upon him. He thought of the wild delight that would
have been his had this happened a few short months before, and he
contrasted that delight that should have been with his present
uncaring coldness. His book, his first book, and his pulse had not
gone up a fraction of a beat, and he was only sad. It meant little
to him now. The most it meant was that it might bring some money,
and little enough did he care for money.
He carried a copy out into the kitchen and presented it to Maria.
"I did it," he explained, in order to clear up her bewilderment.
"I wrote it in the room there, and I guess some few quarts of your
vegetable soup went into the making of it. Keep it. It's yours.
Just to remember me by, you know."
He was not bragging, not showing off. His sole motive was to make
her happy, to make her proud of him, to justify her long faith in
him. She put the book in the front room on top of the family
Bible. A sacred thing was this book her lodger had made, a fetich
of friendship. It softened the blow of his having been a
laundryman, and though she could not understand a line of it, she
knew that every line of it was great. She was a simple, practical,
hard-working woman, but she possessed faith in large endowment.
Just as emotionlessly as he had received "The Shame of the Sun" did
he read the reviews of it that came in weekly from the clipping
bureau. The book was making a hit, that was evident. It meant
more gold in the money sack. He could fix up Lizzie, redeem all
his promises, and still have enough left to build his grass-walled
Singletree, Darnley & Co. had cautiously brought out an edition of
fifteen hundred copies, but the first reviews had started a second
edition of twice the size through the presses; and ere this was
delivered a third edition of five thousand had been ordered. A
London firm made arrangements by cable for an English edition, and
hot-footed upon this came the news of French, German, and
Scandinavian translations in progress. The attack upon the
Maeterlinck school could not have been made at a more opportune
moment. A fierce controversy was precipitated. Saleeby and
Haeckel indorsed and defended "The Shame of the Sun," for once
finding themselves on the same side of a question. Crookes and
Wallace ranged up on the opposing side, while Sir Oliver Lodge
attempted to formulate a compromise that would jibe with his
particular cosmic theories. Maeterlinck's followers rallied around
the standard of mysticism. Chesterton set the whole world laughing
with a series of alleged non-partisan essays on the subject, and
the whole affair, controversy and controversialists, was well-nigh
swept into the pit by a thundering broadside from George Bernard
Shaw. Needless to say the arena was crowded with hosts of lesser
lights, and the dust and sweat and din became terrific.
"It is a most marvellous happening," Singletree, Darnley & Co.
wrote Martin, "a critical philosophic essay selling like a novel.
You could not have chosen your subject better, and all contributory
factors have been unwarrantedly propitious. We need scarcely to
assure you that we are making hay while the sun shines. Over forty
thousand copies have already been sold in the United States and
Canada, and a new edition of twenty thousand is on the presses. We
are overworked, trying to supply the demand. Nevertheless we have
helped to create that demand. We have already spent five thousand
dollars in advertising. The book is bound to be a record-breaker."
"Please find herewith a contract in duplicate for your next book
which we have taken the liberty of forwarding to you. You will
please note that we have increased your royalties to twenty per
cent, which is about as high as a conservative publishing house
dares go. If our offer is agreeable to you, please fill in the
proper blank space with the title of your book. We make no
stipulations concerning its nature. Any book on any subject. If
you have one already written, so much the better. Now is the time
to strike. The iron could not be hotter."
"On receipt of signed contract we shall be pleased to make you an
advance on royalties of five thousand dollars. You see, we have
faith in you, and we are going in on this thing big. We should
like, also, to discuss with you the drawing up of a contract for a
term of years, say ten, during which we shall have the exclusive
right of publishing in book-form all that you produce. But more of
Martin laid down the letter and worked a problem in mental
arithmetic, finding the product of fifteen cents times sixty
thousand to be nine thousand dollars. He signed the new contract,
inserting "The Smoke of Joy" in the blank space, and mailed it back
to the publishers along with the twenty storiettes he had written
in the days before he discovered the formula for the newspaper
storiette. And promptly as the United States mail could deliver
and return, came Singletree, Darnley & Co.'s check for five
"I want you to come down town with me, Maria, this afternoon about
two o'clock," Martin said, the morning the check arrived. "Or,
better, meet me at Fourteenth and Broadway at two o'clock. I'll be
looking out for you."
At the appointed time she was there; but SHOES was the only clew to
the mystery her mind had been capable of evolving, and she suffered
a distinct shock of disappointment when Martin walked her right by
a shoe-store and dived into a real estate office. What happened
thereupon resided forever after in her memory as a dream. Fine
gentlemen smiled at her benevolently as they talked with Martin and
one another; a type-writer clicked; signatures were affixed to an
imposing document; her own landlord was there, too, and affixed his
signature; and when all was over and she was outside on the
sidewalk, her landlord spoke to her, saying, "Well, Maria, you
won't have to pay me no seven dollars and a half this month."
Maria was too stunned for speech.
"Or next month, or the next, or the next," her landlord said.
She thanked him incoherently, as if for a favor. And it was not
until she had returned home to North Oakland and conferred with her
own kind, and had the Portuguese grocer investigate, that she
really knew that she was the owner of the little house in which she
had lived and for which she had paid rent so long.
"Why don't you trade with me no more?" the Portuguese grocer asked
Martin that evening, stepping out to hail him when he got off the
car; and Martin explained that he wasn't doing his own cooking any
more, and then went in and had a drink of wine on the house. He
noted it was the best wine the grocer had in stock.
"Maria," Martin announced that night, "I'm going to leave you. And
you're going to leave here yourself soon. Then you can rent the
house and be a landlord yourself. You've a brother in San Leandro
or Haywards, and he's in the milk business. I want you to send all
your washing back unwashed - understand? - unwashed, and to go out
to San Leandro to-morrow, or Haywards, or wherever it is, and see
that brother of yours. Tell him to come to see me. I'll be
stopping at the Metropole down in Oakland. He'll know a good milk-
ranch when he sees one."
And so it was that Maria became a landlord and the sole owner of a
dairy, with two hired men to do the work for her and a bank account
that steadily increased despite the fact that her whole brood wore
shoes and went to school. Few persons ever meet the fairy princes
they dream about; but Maria, who worked hard and whose head was
hard, never dreaming about fairy princes, entertained hers in the
guise of an ex-laundryman.
In the meantime the world had begun to ask: "Who is this Martin
Eden?" He had declined to give any biographical data to his
publishers, but the newspapers were not to be denied. Oakland was
his own town, and the reporters nosed out scores of individuals who
could supply information. All that he was and was not, all that he
had done and most of what he had not done, was spread out for the
delectation of the public, accompanied by snapshots and photographs
- the latter procured from the local photographer who had once
taken Martin's picture and who promptly copyrighted it and put it
on the market. At first, so great was his disgust with the
magazines and all bourgeois society, Martin fought against
publicity; but in the end, because it was easier than not to, he
surrendered. He found that he could not refuse himself to the
special writers who travelled long distances to see him. Then
again, each day was so many hours long, and, since he no longer was
occupied with writing and studying, those hours had to be occupied
somehow; so he yielded to what was to him a whim, permitted
interviews, gave his opinions on literature and philosophy, and
even accepted invitations of the bourgeoisie. He had settled down
into a strange and comfortable state of mind. He no longer cared.
He forgave everybody, even the cub reporter who had painted him red
and to whom he now granted a full page with specially posed
He saw Lizzie occasionally, and it was patent that she regretted
the greatness that had come to him. It widened the space between
them. Perhaps it was with the hope of narrowing it that she
yielded to his persuasions to go to night school and business
college and to have herself gowned by a wonderful dressmaker who
charged outrageous prices. She improved visibly from day to day,
until Martin wondered if he was doing right, for he knew that all
her compliance and endeavor was for his sake. She was trying to
make herself of worth in his eyes - of the sort of worth he seemed
to value. Yet he gave her no hope, treating her in brotherly
fashion and rarely seeing her.
"Overdue" was rushed upon the market by the Meredith-Lowell Company
in the height of his popularity, and being fiction, in point of
sales it made even a bigger strike than "The Shame of the Sun."
Week after week his was the credit of the unprecedented performance
of having two books at the head of the list of best-sellers. Not
only did the story take with the fiction-readers, but those who
read "The Shame of the Sun" with avidity were likewise attracted to
the sea-story by the cosmic grasp of mastery with which he had
handled it. First he had attacked the literature of mysticism, and
had done it exceeding well; and, next, he had successfully supplied
the very literature he had exposited, thus proving himself to be
that rare genius, a critic and a creator in one.
Money poured in on him, fame poured in on him; he flashed, comet-
like, through the world of literature, and he was more amused than
interested by the stir he was making. One thing was puzzling him,
a little thing that would have puzzled the world had it known. But
the world would have puzzled over his bepuzzlement rather than over
the little thing that to him loomed gigantic. Judge Blount invited
him to dinner. That was the little thing, or the beginning of the
little thing, that was soon to become the big thing. He had
insulted Judge Blount, treated him abominably, and Judge Blount,
meeting him on the street, invited him to dinner. Martin bethought
himself of the numerous occasions on which he had met Judge Blount
at the Morses' and when Judge Blount had not invited him to dinner.
Why had he not invited him to dinner then? he asked himself. He
had not changed. He was the same Martin Eden. What made the
difference? The fact that the stuff he had written had appeared
inside the covers of books? But it was work performed. It was not
something he had done since. It was achievement accomplished at
the very time Judge Blount was sharing this general view and
sneering at his Spencer and his intellect. Therefore it was not
for any real value, but for a purely fictitious value that Judge
Blount invited him to dinner.
Martin grinned and accepted the invitation, marvelling the while at
his complacence. And at the dinner, where, with their womankind,
were half a dozen of those that sat in high places, and where
Martin found himself quite the lion, Judge Blount, warmly seconded
by Judge Hanwell, urged privately that Martin should permit his
name to be put up for the Styx - the ultra-select club to which
belonged, not the mere men of wealth, but the men of attainment.
And Martin declined, and was more puzzled than ever.
He was kept busy disposing of his heap of manuscripts. He was
overwhelmed by requests from editors. It had been discovered that
he was a stylist, with meat under his style. THE NORTHERN REVIEW,
after publishing "The Cradle of Beauty," had written him for half a
dozen similar essays, which would have been supplied out of the
heap, had not BURTON'S MAGAZINE, in a speculative mood, offered him
five hundred dollars each for five essays. He wrote back that he
would supply the demand, but at a thousand dollars an essay. He
remembered that all these manuscripts had been refused by the very
magazines that were now clamoring for them. And their refusals had
been cold-blooded, automatic, stereotyped. They had made him
sweat, and now he intended to make them sweat. BURTON'S MAGAZINE
paid his price for five essays, and the remaining four, at the same
rate, were snapped up by MACKINTOSH'S MONTHLY, THE NORTHERN REVIEW
being too poor to stand the pace. Thus went out to the world "The
High Priests of Mystery," "The Wonder-Dreamers," "The Yardstick of
the Ego," "Philosophy of Illusion," "God and Clod," "Art and
Biology," "Critics and Test-tubes," "Star-dust," and "The Dignity
of Usury," - to raise storms and rumblings and mutterings that were
many a day in dying down.
Editors wrote to him telling him to name his own terms, which he
did, but it was always for work performed. He refused resolutely
to pledge himself to any new thing. The thought of again setting
pen to paper maddened him. He had seen Brissenden torn to pieces
by the crowd, and despite the fact that him the crowd acclaimed, he
could not get over the shock nor gather any respect for the crowd.
His very popularity seemed a disgrace and a treason to Brissenden.
It made him wince, but he made up his mind to go on and fill the
He received letters from editors like the following: "About a year
ago we were unfortunate enough to refuse your collection of love-
poems. We were greatly impressed by them at the time, but certain
arrangements already entered into prevented our taking them. If
you still have them, and if you will be kind enough to forward
them, we shall be glad to publish the entire collection on your own
terms. We are also prepared to make a most advantageous offer for
bringing them out in book-form."
Martin recollected his blank-verse tragedy, and sent it instead.
He read it over before mailing, and was particularly impressed by
its sophomoric amateurishness and general worthlessness. But he
sent it; and it was published, to the everlasting regret of the
editor. The public was indignant and incredulous. It was too far
a cry from Martin Eden's high standard to that serious bosh. It
was asserted that he had never written it, that the magazine had
faked it very clumsily, or that Martin Eden was emulating the elder
Dumas and at the height of success was hiring his writing done for
him. But when he explained that the tragedy was an early effort of
his literary childhood, and that the magazine had refused to be
happy unless it got it, a great laugh went up at the magazine's
expense and a change in the editorship followed. The tragedy was
never brought out in book-form, though Martin pocketed the advance
royalties that had been paid.
COLEMAN'S WEEKLY sent Martin a lengthy telegram, costing nearly
three hundred dollars, offering him a thousand dollars an article
for twenty articles. He was to travel over the United States, with
all expenses paid, and select whatever topics interested him. The
body of the telegram was devoted to hypothetical topics in order to
show him the freedom of range that was to be his. The only
restriction placed upon him was that he must confine himself to the
United States. Martin sent his inability to accept and his regrets
by wire "collect."
"Wiki-Wiki," published in WARREN'S MONTHLY, was an instantaneous
success. It was brought out forward in a wide-margined,
beautifully decorated volume that struck the holiday trade and sold
like wildfire. The critics were unanimous in the belief that it
would take its place with those two classics by two great writers,
"The Bottle Imp" and "The Magic Skin."
The public, however, received the "Smoke of Joy" collection rather
dubiously and coldly. The audacity and unconventionality of the
storiettes was a shock to bourgeois morality and prejudice; but
when Paris went mad over the immediate translation that was made,
the American and English reading public followed suit and bought so
many copies that Martin compelled the conservative house of
Singletree, Darnley & Co. to pay a flat royalty of twenty-five per
cent for a third book, and thirty per cent flat for a fourth.
These two volumes comprised all the short stories he had written
and which had received, or were receiving, serial publication.
"The Ring of Bells" and his horror stories constituted one
collection; the other collection was composed of "Adventure," "The
Pot," "The Wine of Life," "The Whirlpool," "The Jostling Street,"
and four other stories. The Lowell-Meredith Company captured the
collection of all his essays, and the Maxmillian Company got his
"Sea Lyrics" and the "Love-cycle," the latter receiving serial
publication in the LADIES' HOME COMPANION after the payment of an
Martin heaved a sigh of relief when he had disposed of the last
manuscript. The grass-walled castle and the white, coppered
schooner were very near to him. Well, at any rate he had
discovered Brissenden's contention that nothing of merit found its
way into the magazines. His own success demonstrated that
Brissenden had been wrong.
And yet, somehow, he had a feeling that Brissenden had been right,
after all. "The Shame of the Sun" had been the cause of his
success more than the stuff he had written. That stuff had been
merely incidental. It had been rejected right and left by the
magazines. The publication of "The Shame of the Sun" had started a
controversy and precipitated the landslide in his favor. Had there
been no "Shame of the Sun" there would have been no landslide, and
had there been no miracle in the go of "The Shame of the Sun" there
would have been no landslide. Singletree, Darnley & Co. attested
that miracle. They had brought out a first edition of fifteen
hundred copies and been dubious of selling it. They were
experienced publishers and no one had been more astounded than they
at the success which had followed. To them it had been in truth a
miracle. They never got over it, and every letter they wrote him
reflected their reverent awe of that first mysterious happening.
They did not attempt to explain it. There was no explaining it.
It had happened. In the face of all experience to the contrary, it
So it was, reasoning thus, that Martin questioned the validity of
his popularity. It was the bourgeoisie that bought his books and
poured its gold into his money-sack, and from what little he knew