Monday morning, Joe groaned over the first truck load of clothes to the washer.
I say, he began.
Dont talk to me, Martin snarled.
Im sorry, Joe, he said at noon, when they knocked off for dinner.
Tears came into the others eyes.
Thats all right, old man, he said. Were in hell, an we cant help ourselves. An, you know, I kind of like you a whole lot. Thats what made it hurt. I cottoned to you from the first.
Martin shook his hand.
Lets quit, Joe suggested. Lets chuck it, an go hoboin. I aint never tried it, but it must be dead easy. An nothin to do. Just think of it, nothin to do. I was sick once, typhoid, in the hospital, an it was beautiful. I wish Id get sick again.
The week dragged on. The hotel was full, and extra fancy starch poured in upon them. They performed prodigies of valor. They fought late each night under the electric lights, bolted their meals, and even got in a half hours work before breakfast. Martin no longer took his cold baths. Every moment was drive, drive, drive, and Joe was the masterful shepherd of moments, herding them carefully, never losing one, counting them over like a miser counting gold, working on in a frenzy, toil-mad, a feverish machine, aided ably by that other machine that thought of itself as once having been one Martin Eden, a man.
But it was only at rare moments that Martin was able to think. The house of thought was closed, its windows boarded up, and he was its shadowy caretaker. He was a shadow. Joe was right. They were both shadows, and this was the unending limbo of toil. Or was it a dream? Sometimes, in the steaming, sizzling heat, as he swung the heavy irons back and forth over the white garments, it came to him that it was a dream. In a short while, or maybe after a thousand years or so, he would awake, in his little room with the ink-stained table, and take up his writing where he had left off the day before. Or maybe that was a dream, too, and the awakening would be the changing of the watches, when he would drop down out of his bunk in the lurching forecastle and go up on deck, under the tropic stars, and take the wheel and feel the cool tradewind blowing through his flesh.
Came Saturday and its hollow victory at three oclock.
Guess Ill go down an get a glass of beer, Joe said, in the queer, monotonous tones that marked his week-end collapse.
Martin seemed suddenly to wake up. He opened the kit bag and oiled his wheel, putting graphite on the chain and adjusting the bearings. Joe was halfway down to the saloon when Martin passed by, bending low over the handle-bars, his legs driving the ninety-six gear with rhythmic strength, his face set for seventy miles of road and grade and dust. He slept in Oakland that night, and on Sunday covered the seventy miles back. And on Monday morning, weary, he began the new weeks work, but he had kept sober.
A fifth week passed, and a sixth, during which he lived and toiled as a machine, with just a spark of something more in him, just a glimmering bit of soul, that compelled him, at each week-end, to scorch off the hundred and forty miles. But this was not rest. It was super-machinelike, and it helped to crush out the glimmering bit of soul that was all that was left him from former life. At the end of the seventh week, without intending it, too weak to resist, he drifted down to the village with Joe and drowned life and found life until Monday morning.
Again, at the week-ends, he ground out the one hundred and forty miles, obliterating the numbness of too great exertion by the numbness of still greater exertion. At the end of three months he went down
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