Chapter 39

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 dying man.

“And he wrote that report,” Martin said softly. “Why, he is only a boy!”

“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! Poke him!”

“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 matter?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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