Martin Eden did not go out to hunt for a job in the morning. It was late afternoon before he came out of his delirium and gazed with aching eyes about the room. Mary, one of the tribe of Silva, eight years old, keeping watch, raised a screech at sight of his returning consciousness. Maria hurried into the room from the kitchen. She put her work-calloused hand upon his hot forehead and felt his pulse.
You lika da eat? she asked.
He shook his head. Eating was farthest from his desire, and he wondered that he should ever have been hungry in his life.
Im sick, Maria, he said weakly. What is it? Do you know?
Grip, she answered. Two or three days you alla da right. Better you no eat now. Bimeby plenty can eat, to-morrow can eat maybe.
Martin was not used to sickness, and when Maria and her little girl left him, he essayed to get up and dress. By a supreme exertion of will, with rearing brain and eyes that ached so that he could not keep them open, he managed to get out of bed, only to be left stranded by his senses upon the table. Half an hour later he managed to regain the bed, where he was content to lie with closed eyes and analyze his various pains and weaknesses. Maria came in several times to change the cold cloths on his forehead. Otherwise she left him in peace, too wise to vex him with chatter. This moved him to gratitude, and he murmured to himself, Maria, you getta da milka ranch, all righta, all right.
Then he remembered his long-buried past of yesterday.
It seemed a life-time since he had received that letter from the Transcontinental, a life-time since it was all over and done with and a new page turned. He had shot his bolt, and shot it hard, and now he was down on his back. If he hadnt starved himself, he wouldnt have been caught by La Grippe. He had been run down, and he had not had the strength to throw off the germ of disease which had invaded his system. This was what resulted.
What does it profit a man to write a whole library and lose his own life? he demanded aloud. This is no place for me. No more literature in mine. Me for the counting-house and ledger, the monthly salary, and the little home with Ruth.
Two days later, having eaten an egg and two slices of toast and drunk a cup of tea, he asked for his mail, but found his eyes still hurt too much to permit him to read.
You read for me, Maria, he said. Never mind the big, long letters. Throw them under the table. Read me the small letters.
No can, was the answer. Teresa, she go to school, she can.
So Teresa Silva, aged nine, opened his letters and read them to him. He listened absently to a long dun from the type-writer people, his mind busy with ways and means of finding a job. Suddenly he was shocked back to himself.
We offer you forty dollars for all serial rights in your story, Teresa slowly spelled out, provided you allow us to make the alterations suggested.
What magazine is that? Martin shouted. Here, give it to me!
He could see to read, now, and he was unaware of the pain of the action. It was the White Mouse that was offering him forty dollars, and the story was The Whirlpool, another of his early horror stories. He read the letter through again and again. The editor told him plainly that he had not handled the idea
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