Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 2
The process of getting into the dining room was a nightmare to him. Between
halts and stumbles, jerks and lurches, locomotion had at times seemed
impossible. But at last he had made it, and was seated alongside of Her. The
array of knives and forks frightened him. They bristled with unknown perils, and
he gazed at them, fascinated, till their dazzle became a background across which
moved a succession of forecastle pictures, wherein he and his mates sat eating
salt beef with sheath-knives and fingers, or scooping thick pea-soup out of
pannikins by means of battered iron spoons. The stench of bad beef was in his
nostrils, while in his ears, to the accompaniment of creaking timbers and
groaning bulkheads, echoed the loud mouth-noises of the eaters. He watched
them eating, and decided that they ate like pigs. Well, he would be careful here.
He would make no noise. He would keep his mind upon it all the time.
He glanced around the table. Opposite him was Arthur, and Arthur's brother,
Norman. They were her brothers, he reminded himself, and his heart warmed
toward them. How they loved each other, the members of this family! There
flashed into his mind the picture of her mother, of the kiss of greeting, and of the
pair of them walking toward him with arms entwined. Not in his world were such
displays of affection between parents and children made. It was a revelation of
the heights of existence that were attained in the world above. It was the finest
thing yet that he had seen in this small glimpse of that world. He was moved
deeply by appreciation of it, and his heart was melting with sympathetic
tenderness. He had starved for love all his life. His nature craved love. It was an
organic demand of his being. Yet he had gone without, and hardened himself in
the process. He had not known that he needed love. Nor did he know it now. He
merely saw it in operation, and thrilled to it, and thought it fine, and high, and
He was glad that Mr. Morse was not there. It was difficult enough getting
acquainted with her, and her mother, and her brother, Norman. Arthur he already
knew somewhat. The father would have been too much for him, he felt sure. It
seemed to him that he had never worked so hard in his life. The severest toil was
child's play compared with this. Tiny nodules of moisture stood out on his
forehead, and his shirt was wet with sweat from the exertion of doing so many
unaccustomed things at once. He had to eat as he had never eaten before, to
handle strange tools, to glance surreptitiously about and learn how to accomplish
each new thing, to receive the flood of impressions that was pouring in upon him
and being mentally annotated and classified; to be conscious of a yearning for
her that perturbed him in the form of a dull, aching restlessness; to feel the prod
of desire to win to the walk in life whereon she trod, and to have his mind ever
and again straying off in speculation and vague plans of how to reach to her.
Also, when his secret glance went across to Norman opposite him, or to any one