Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 16
The alarm-clock went off, jerking Martin out of sleep with a suddenness that
would have given headache to one with less splendid constitution. Though he
slept soundly, he awoke instantly, like a cat, and he awoke eagerly, glad that the
five hours of unconsciousness were gone. He hated the oblivion of sleep. There
was too much to do, too much of life to live. He grudged every moment of life
sleep robbed him of, and before the clock had ceased its clattering he was head
and ears in the washbasin and thrilling to the cold bite of the water.
But he did not follow his regular programme. There was no unfinished story
waiting his hand, no new story demanding articulation. He had studied late, and it
was nearly time for breakfast. He tried to read a chapter in Fiske, but his brain
was restless and he closed the book. To-day witnessed the beginning of the new
battle, wherein for some time there would be no writing. He was aware of a
sadness akin to that with which one leaves home and family. He looked at the
manuscripts in the corner. That was it. He was going away from them, his pitiful,
dishonored children that were welcome nowhere. He went over and began to
rummage among them, reading snatches here and there, his favorite portions.
"The Pot" he honored with reading aloud, as he did "Adventure." "Joy," his latest-
born, completed the day before and tossed into the corner for lack of stamps,
won his keenest approbation.
"I can't understand," he murmured. "Or maybe it's the editors who can't
understand. There's nothing wrong with that. They publish worse every month.
Everything they publish is worse - nearly everything, anyway."
After breakfast he put the type-writer in its case and carried it down into Oakland.
"I owe a month on it," he told the clerk in the store. "But you tell the manager I'm
going to work and that I'll be in in a month or so and straighten up."
He crossed on the ferry to San Francisco and made his way to an employment
office. "Any kind of work, no trade," he told the agent; and was interrupted by a
new-comer, dressed rather foppishly, as some workingmen dress who have
instincts for finer things. The agent shook his head despondently.
"Nothin' doin' eh?" said the other. "Well, I got to get somebody to-day."
He turned and stared at Martin, and Martin, staring back, noted the puffed and
discolored face, handsome and weak, and knew that he had been making a night
of it.
"Lookin' for a job?" the other queried. "What can you do?"