/ Martin Eden

. ., , ,


Chapter 1

He opened the door with a key and went in, followed by a young fellow who awkwardly removed his cap. He wore rough clothes of a sailor. He did not know what to do with his cap.

The wide rooms seemed too narrow for him. His heavy arms hung at his sides. He did not know what to do with those arms and hands. He watched the easy walk of the other in front of him, and for the first time realized that his walk was different from that of other men. The sweat burst through the skin of his forehead in tiny beads, and he paused and mopped his bronzed face with his handkerchief.

Hold on, Arthur,[1]1
Hold on, Arthur. , .

my boy, he said, attempting to mask his anxiety with facetious utterance. This is too much for me now. You know I didnt want to come, and I guess your family doesnt want to see me at all.

Thats all right, was the reassuring answer. You mustnt be frightened at us.[2]2
You mustnt be frightened at us. .

Were just homely people Hello, theres a letter for me.

He stepped back to the table, opened the envelope, and began to read, giving the stranger an opportunity to recover himself. And the stranger understood and appreciated.

An oil painting drew his attention. There was beauty, and it drew him irresistibly. He forgot his awkward walk and came closer to the painting, very close. He did not know painting. He had seen oil paintings, it was true, in the show windows of shops, but the glass of the windows did not allow him to come closer.

Then he saw the books on the table. He glanced at the titles and the authors names, read fragments of text, caressing the volumes with his eyes and hands, and, once, recognized a book he had read. He took a volume of Swinburne[3]3
Swinburne ( XIX ).

and began to read.

Twice he closed the book on his forefinger to look at the name of the author. Swinburne! he must remember that name. But who was Swinburne? Was he dead a hundred years or so, like most of the poets? Or was he alive still, and writing? He turned to the title-page yes, he had written other books; well, he will go to the library in the morning and try to get some Swinburnes books. He went back to the text and lost himself. He did not notice that a young woman had entered the room. Suddenly he heard Arthurs voice saying:


this is Mr. Eden.[5]5
Mr. Eden


He closed the book. Mr. Eden! Everybody called him just Eden, or Martin Eden,[6]6
Martin Eden

or just Martin, all his life. And Mister! It was something!

And then he turned and saw the girl. She was a pale, ethereal creature, with wide, spiritual blue eyes and a wealth of golden hair. He did not know how she was dressed, except that the dress was as wonderful as she. She was like a pale gold flower upon a slender stem. No, she was a spirit, a divinity, a goddess. She looked him straight in the eyes as she shook hands, frankly, like a man. The women he had known did not shake hands that way.[7]7
did not shake hands that way -

Never had he seen such a woman.

Will you sit down, Mr. Eden? the girl was saying. Arthur told us. It was brave of you[8]8
It was brave of you. .


He waved his hand and muttered that he had done nothing at all. He sat down on the edge of the chair, greatly worried by his hands.

You have such a scar on your neck, Mr. Eden, the girl was saying. How did it happen?

A Mexican with a knife, miss, he answered. It was just a fight.

Oh, the girl said, in a faint, far voice, and he noticed the shock in her sensitive face.

He felt a shock himself. There was a brief pause in the conversation.

This man Swineburne,[9]9

he began,


Swineburne, he repeated, with the same mispronunciation. The poet.

Swinburne, she corrected.

Yes, thats the chap, he stammered, his cheeks hot again. How long since he died?

Why, I havent heard that he was dead. She looked at him curiously. Where did you meet him?

I never saw him, was the reply. But I read some of his poetry out of that book there on the table just before you come in. How do you like his poetry?

And she began to talk quickly and easily upon the subject that he had suggested. Here was intellectual life, he thought, and here was beauty. He forgot himself and stared at her with hungry eyes. The books were true. There were such women in the world. She was one of them.

Now Longfellow[10]10
Now Longfellow

she was saying.

Yes, Ive read it, he was glad to say so. The Psalm of Life, Excelsior,[11]11
Excelsior ( )

and I guess thats all.

She nodded her head and smiled, and he felt, somehow, that her smile was tolerant, pitifully tolerant.

Excuse me, miss. I guess that I dont know much about such things. But I will know it

It sounded like a threat. His voice was determined, his eyes were flashing.

I think you will know it, she finished with a laugh. You are very strong.

Yes, Im not an invalid, he said. But most of what you were saying I cant digest, you see. I like books and poetry, but Ive never thought about them. Thats why I cant talk about them. How did you learn all this?

By going to school, and by studying, she answered.

I went to school when I was a kid, he began to object.

Yes; but I mean high school, and lectures, and the university.

Youve gone to the university? he demanded in frank amazement.

Im going there now.

At the same moment a woman was entering the room. The girl left her chair and came to the woman. They kissed each other. That must be her mother, he thought. She was a tall, blond woman, slender, and stately, and beautiful.

Chapter 2

Their journey to the dining room was a nightmare to him. But at last he had made it. The array of knives and forks frightened him. Well, he must be careful here.

He glanced around the table. Opposite him was Arthur, and Arthurs brother, Norman.[12]12

How they loved each other, the members of this family! His nature wanted love. It was an organic demand of his life. He had not known that he needed love.

He was glad that Mr. Morse[13]13
Mr. Morse

was not there. The father is too much for him, he felt sure. He had to eat as he had never eaten before, to handle strange tools.

He was unaware of what he ate. It was merely food.[14]14
It was merely food. .

Eating was an aesthetic function. It was an intellectual function, too. His mind was stirred. He heard words that were meaningless to him, and other words that he had seen only in books. He said, Yes, miss, and No, miss, to her, and Yes, maam, and No, maam, to her mother. And when she or her mother addressed him as Mr. Eden, he was glowing and warm with delight.

It was brave of you to help Arthur and you a stranger, she said tactfully.

It was nothing at all, he said. Those boys were looking for trouble.[15]15
were looking for trouble

They began to insult Arthur, and

He paused. Arthur continued the story, for the twentieth time, of his adventure with the drunken hooligans on the ferry-boat and of how Martin Eden had rescued him.

Martin Eden nodded. He began to tell the company about his sea life, what he saw and what he knew.

For the first time he became himself. And while he talked, the girl looked at him with startled eyes. His fire warmed her. She wanted to lean toward this burning, blazing man that was like a volcano full of strength, and health. Ruth saw horror in her mothers eyes fascinated horror, it was true, but none the less[16]16
none the less

horror. This man from the darkness was evil. Her mother saw it, and her mother was right. She will trust her mothers judgment in this as she had always trusted it in all things.

Later, at the piano, she played for him. And she, glancing at him across her shoulder, saw something in his face.

The greatest time of my life, you see Its all new to me, and I like it.

I hope youll visit us again, she said, as he was saying good night to her brothers.

He pulled on his cap, and was gone.

Well, what do you think of him? Arthur demanded.

He is interesting, she answered. How old is he?

Twenty almost twenty-one. I asked him this afternoon. I didnt think he was that young.

And I am three years older, was the thought in her mind as she kissed her brothers goodnight.

Chapter 3

Martin Eden took out a brown rice paper and a pinch of Mexican tobacco. By God![17]17
By God! ׸ !

he said aloud, in a voice of awe and wonder. By God! he repeated. And yet again he murmured, By God!

He had met the Woman. He had sat next to her at table. He had felt her hand in his, he had looked into her eyes. This feeling of the divine startled him. He had never believed in the divine. He had always been irreligious. There was no life beyond; it was here and now, then darkness everlasting. But what he had seen in her eyes was soul immortal soul that never dies. Nobody had given him the message of immortality. But she had. She had whispered it to him the first moment she looked at him. He did not deserve such fortune. He was like a drunken man, murmuring aloud: By God! By God!

He caught a car[18]18
a car .

that was going to Berkeley.[19]19

It was crowded with young men who were singing songs. He studied them curiously. They were university boys. They went to the same university that she did, they could know her, could see her every day if they wanted to.

The car came to the two-story building with the proud sign, HIGGINBOTHAMS CASH STORE.[20]20

Bernard Higginbotham[21]21
Bernard Higginbotham

had married his sister, and he knew him well. He climbed the stairs to the second floor. Here lived his brother-in-law.

He entered a room, where sat his sister and Bernard Higginbotham. Martin Eden never looked at him without repulsion. What his sister had found in that man was a mystery.

Good night, said Martin. Good night, Gertrude.[22]22


Dont bang the door,[23]23
Dont bang the door. .

Mr. Higginbotham cautioned him.

Martin controlled himself and closed the door softly behind him.

Mr. Higginbotham looked at his wife exultantly.

He is drunk, he proclaimed in a hoarse whisper. I told you. A fine example to the children! If he does it again, hes got to get out.[24]24
hes got to get out


His wife sighed, and shook her head sorrowfully. Mr. Higginbotham asked:

Has he paid last weeks board?

She nodded, then added, He still has some money.

When is he going to sea again?

He was over to San Francisco yesterday looking for a ship, she answered. But hes got money at the moment.

I can give him a job: to drive the wagon, her husband said. Tom went away.

I told you youd lose him, she cried out. You paid him very little.

Now look here, old woman, for the thousandth time Ive told you to keep your nose out of the business. I wont tell you again.

I dont care, she said. Tom was a good boy. Her husband glared at her.

Your brother he began.

He pays his board, was the retort. And hes my brother, what do you want?

I will charge him for gas: he is reading in bed, her husband answered.

Mrs. Higginbotham made no reply. Her husband was triumphant.

Chapter 4

Martin Eden entered his room, a tiny hole with space for a bed, a wash-stand,[25]25
a wash-stand

and one chair. Mr. Higginbotham was too greedy to keep a servant when his wife could do the work. Martin placed the Swinburne and Browning on the chair, took off his coat, and sat down on the bed. He murmured, Ruth.

Ruth. He had not thought a simple sound could be so beautiful. This name delighted his ear.[26]26
This name delighted his ear. .

Ruth. It was a talisman, a magic word to conjure with. Each time he murmured it, her face shimmered before him. The very thought of her[27]27
the very thought of her

ennobled and purified him, made him better. This was new to him. He had never known women who had made him better.

He got up abruptly and tried to see himself in the dirty looking-glass[28]28

over the wash-stand. It was the first time he had ever really seen himself. He saw the head and face of a young fellow of twenty. The brown sunburn of his face surprised him. He had not dreamed he was so black. His arms were sunburnt, too.

He sat back on the bed with a bitter laugh, and took off his shoes. He took the Browning[29]29

and the Swinburne from the chair and kissed them. She told me to come again, he thought. He looked at himself in the glass, and said aloud:

Martin Eden, tomorrow you go to the library and read up on etiquette.

Chapter 5

He awoke next morning in a steamy atmosphere. As he came out of his room he heard the slosh of water, a sharp exclamation. The squall of the child went through him like a knife. How different, he thought, from the atmosphere of beauty and repose of the house wherein Ruth dwelt. There it was all spiritual. Here it was all material.

Come here, Alfred,[30]30

he called to the crying child. He put a quarter[31]31
a quarter

in the youngsters hand and held him in his arms a moment. Now run along and get some candy, and dont forget to give some to your brothers and sisters.

His sister looked at him. The tears welled into her eyes.

Youll find breakfast in the oven, she said hurriedly.

Martin went into the kitchen. Then he went downstairs and out into the street. He had debated between the Berkeley Library and the Oakland Library, and chose the latter because Ruth lived in Oakland. He wandered through endless rows of books, and did not know what to ask the man at the desk.

Did you find what you wanted? the man at the desk asked him as he was leaving.

Yes, sir, he answered. You have a fine library here.

The man nodded. We should be glad to see you here often. Are you a sailor?

Yes, sir, he answered. And Ill come again.

Now, how did he know that? he asked himself as he went down the stairs.

Chapter 6

Martin Eden was afraid that he might visit Ruth too soon. He spent long hours in the Oakland and Berkeley libraries. He burned the gas late in the servants room, and was charged fifty cents a week for it by Mr. Higginbotham.

He read many books; every page of every book was a hole into the realm of knowledge. His hunger increased. He read more of Swinburne than was contained in the volume Ruth had given him. Then he studied Kiplings poems. Psychology was a new word in Martins vocabulary.

He dared not go near Ruths house in the daytime, but at night he was lurking like a thief around the Morse home.

He had undergone a moral revolution. Her cleanness and purity made him clean, too. He began to brush his teeth, and used a nail-brush. He found a book in the library on the care of the body, and promptly decided to have a cold-water bath every morning.

The reform went deeper. He still smoked, but he drank no more. He was drunken in new and more profound ways with Ruth, who had fired him with love and with a glimpse of higher and eternal life; with books, and with the sense of personal cleanliness.

One night he went to the theatre, and from the second balcony he did see her. He saw her with Arthur and a strange young man with eyeglasses.

He left his seat before the curtain went down on the last act. He wanted to see her again. Suddenly two girls appeared. One of them was a slender, dark girl, with black, defiant eyes. They smiled at him, and he smiled back.

Hello, he said.

It was automatic. The black-eyed girl smiled, and showed signs of stopping. At the corner where the main stream of people flowed onward, he started to follow the cross street. But the girl with the black eyes caught his arm, and cried:

Bill! Where are you going?

He halted with a laugh, and turned back.

Whats her name? he asked the giggling girl, nodding at the dark-eyed one.

You ask her, was the response.

Well, what is it? he demanded, turning on the girl in question.

You didnt tell me yours, yet, she retorted.

You never asked it, he smiled. But, true, its Bill, all right, all right.

Oh, she looked him in the eyes. What is it, honest?

Oh, he knew those girls, and knew them well, from A to Z. They work hard, they are nervously desirous for some happiness in the desert of existence.

Bill, he answered, nodding his head. Sure, Bill and no other.

He isnt Bill at all, her friend noticed.

How do you know? he demanded. You never saw me before.

No need to, to know youre lying, was the retort.

Those girls from the factory The cheap cloth, the cheap ribbons, and the cheap rings on the fingers. He felt a tug at his arm, and heard a voice saying:

Wake up, Bill! Whats the matter with you?

What were you saying? he asked. Theres only one thing wrong with the programme, he said aloud. Ive got a date already.

The girls eyes blazed her disappointment.

To visit a sick friend, I suppose? she sneered.

No, a real, honest date with he faltered, with a girl. But why cant we meet some other time? You didnt tell me your name. And where do you live?

Lizzie, she replied, her hand pressing his arm, while her body leaned against his. Lizzie Connolly.[32]32
Lizzie Connolly


He talked on a few minutes before saying good night. He did not go home immediately; and under the tree he looked up at a window and murmured: That date was with you, Ruth.

Chapter 7

A week of heavy reading had passed since the evening he first met Ruth Morse, and still he dared not call. He did not know the proper time to call, and he was afraid of a blunder. He left his old companions, and has no new companions. Nothing remained for him but to read, and long hours he devoted to it. But his eyes were strong, and they were placed on a strong body.

It seemed to him, by the end of the week, that he had lived centuries, so far behind[33]33
so far behind

was the old life. He attempted to read books that required years of studying. One day he read a book of philosophy, and the next day one that was ultra-modern. It was the same with the economists. On the one shelf at the library he found Karl Marx, Ricardo, Adam Smith, and Mill.[34]34
Karl Marx, Ricardo, Adam Smith, and Mill , ,


Poetry, however, was his solace, and he read much of it, finding his greatest joy in the simpler poets, whom he could understand. He loved beauty, and there he found beauty. Poetry, like music, touched him profoundly. The pages of his mind were blank, so he was soon able to extract great joy from chanting aloud. He enjoyed music and the beauty of the printed words he had read.

The man at the desk in the library had seen Martin there so often that he had become quite cordial, always greeting him with a smile and a nod when he entered. One day Martin asked him:

Well, theres something Id like to ask you.

The man smiled and paid attention.

When you meet a young lady and she asks you to come, how soon can you come?

Why, any time, the man answered.

Yes, but this is different, Martin objected. She I well, you see, its this way: maybe she wont be there. She goes to the university.

Then come again.

If I could, he said.

I beg pardon?

What is the best time to come? The afternoon? Or the evening? Or Sunday?

Ill tell you, the librarian said with a brightening face. You call her up on the telephone[35]35
call her up on the telephone

and find out.

Ill do it, he said, picking up his books and starting away.

He turned back and asked:

When youre speaking to a young lady say, for instance, Miss Lizzie Smith[36]36
say, for instance, Miss Lizzie Smith , ,

do you say Miss Lizzie? or Miss Smith?

Say Miss Smith, the librarian stated authoritatively. Say Miss Smith always until you come to know her better.[37]37
until you come to know her better


So it was that Martin Eden solved the problem.

Please, come any time; Ill be at home all afternoon, was Ruths reply over the telephone to his request as to when he could return the borrowed books.

She met him at the door herself, and her womans eyes noticed the certain slight but indefinable change in him for the better.[38]38
change in him for the better

Also, she was struck by his face. She felt the desire to lean toward him for warmth.

Once they were seated in the living-room, they talked first of the borrowed books, of Swinburne, and of Browning. Ruth wanted to help him. His neck was near, and there was sweetness in the thought of laying her hands upon it. She did not dream that the feeling he excited in her was love. She thought she was merely interested in him as an unusual type.

She did not know she desired him; but with him it was different. He knew that he loved her, and he desired her as he had never before desired anything in his life. He had loved poetry for its beauty; but since he met her the gates to the vast field of love-poetry had been opened wide.

His gaze wandered often toward her lips, and he yearned for them hungrily. But there was nothing gross or earthly in it. They were lips of pure spirit, and his desire for them seemed absolutely different from the desire that had led him to other womens lips. He did not dream how ardent and masculine his gaze was, her spirit was affecting him. Her virginity exalted and disguised his own emotions, elevating his thoughts to a chastity.

I wonder if I can get some advice from you, he began. You remember I said I couldnt talk about books and other things because I didnt know how? Well, Ive done a lot of things ever since. I never had any advantages. Ive worked hard ever since I was a kid. I was never inside a house like this. When I come a week ago, and saw all this, and you, and your mother, and brothers, and everything well, I liked it. Id heard about such things and read about such things in some of the books, and when I looked around at your house, why, the books come true.[39]39
why, the books come true ,

And I liked it. I wanted it. I want it now. I want to breathe air like you get in this house air that is filled with books, and pictures, and beautiful things, where people talk in low voices and are clean, and their thoughts are clean. When you were crossing the room to kiss your mother, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I ever seen. Ive seen a lot of things in my life, but I want to see more.

: 1 2 3