Chapter 45

Kreis came to Martin one day — Kreis, of the “real dirt”; and Martin turned to him with relief, to receive the glowing details of a scheme sufficiently wild-catty to interest him as a fictionist rather than an investor. Kreis paused long enough in the midst of his exposition to tell him that in most of his “Shame of the Sun” he had been a chump.

“But I didn’t come here to spout philosophy,” Kreis went on. “What I want to know is whether or not you will put a thousand dollars in on this deal?”

“No, I’m not chump enough for that, at any rate,” Martin answered. “But I’ll tell you what I will do. You gave me the greatest night of my life. You gave me what money cannot buy. Now I’ve got money, and it means nothing to me. I’d like to turn over to you a thousand dollars of what I don’t value for what you gave me that night and which was beyond price. You need the money. I’ve got more than I need. You want it. You came for it. There’s no use scheming it out of me. Take it.”

Kreis betrayed no surprise. He folded the check away in his pocket.

“At that rate I’d like the contract of providing you with many such nights,” he said.

“Too late.” Martin shook his head. “That night was the one night for me. I was in paradise. It’s commonplace with you, I know. But it wasn’t to me. I shall never live at such a pitch again. I’m done with philosophy. I want never to hear another word of it.”

“The first dollar I ever made in my life out of my philosophy,” Kreis remarked, as he paused in the doorway. “And then the market broke.”

Mrs. Morse drove by Martin on the street one day, and smiled and nodded. He smiled back and lifted his hat. The episode did not affect him. A month before it might have disgusted him, or made him curious and set him to speculating about her state of consciousness at that moment. But now it was not provocative of a second thought. He forgot about it the next moment. He forgot about it as he would have forgotten the Central Bank Building or the City Hall after having walked past them. Yet his mind was preternaturally active. His thoughts went ever around and around in a circle. The centre of that circle was “work performed”; it ate at his brain like a deathless maggot. He awoke to it in the morning. It tormented his dreams at night. Every affair of life around him that penetrated through his senses immediately related itself to “work performed.” He drove along the path of relentless logic to the conclusion that he was nobody, nothing. Mart Eden, the hoodlum, and Mart Eden, the sailor, had been real, had been he; but Martin Eden! the famous writer, did not exist. Martin Eden, the famous writer, was a vapor that had arisen in the mob- mind and by the mob-mind had been thrust into the corporeal being of Mart Eden, the hoodlum and sailor. But it couldn’t fool him. He was not that sun-myth that the mob was worshipping and sacrificing dinners to. He knew better.

He read the magazines about himself, and pored over portraits of himself published therein until he was unable to associate his identity with those portraits. He was the fellow who had lived and thrilled and loved; who had been easy-going and tolerant of the frailties of life; who had served in the forecastle, wandered in strange lands, and led his gang in the old fighting days. He was the fellow who had been stunned at first by the thousands of books in the free library, and who had afterward learned his way among them and mastered them; he was the fellow who had burned the midnight oil and bedded with a spur and written books himself. But the one thing he was not was that colossal appetite that all the mob was bent upon feeding.

There were things, however, in the magazines that amused him. All the magazines were claiming him. Warren’s Monthly advertised to its subscribers that it was always on the quest after new writers, and that, among others, it had introduced Martin Eden to the reading public. The White Mouse claimed him; so did The Northern Review and Mackintosh’s Magazine, until silenced by The Globe, which pointed triumphantly to its files where the mangled “Sea Lyrics” lay buried. Youth and Age, which had come to life again after having escaped paying its bills, put in a prior claim, which nobody but farmers’ children

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