Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 24
The weeks passed. Martin ran out of money, and publishers' checks were far
away as ever. All his important manuscripts had come back and been started out
again, and his hack-work fared no better. His little kitchen was no longer graced
with a variety of foods. Caught in the pinch with a part sack of rice and a few
pounds of dried apricots, rice and apricots was his menu three times a day for
five days hand-running. Then he startled to realize on his credit. The Portuguese
grocer, to whom he had hitherto paid cash, called a halt when Martin's bill
reached the magnificent total of three dollars and eighty-five cents.
"For you see," said the grocer, "you no catcha da work, I losa da mon'."
And Martin could reply nothing. There was no way of explaining. It was not true
business principle to allow credit to a strong- bodied young fellow of the working-
class who was too lazy to work.
"You catcha da job, I let you have mora da grub," the grocer assured Martin. "No
job, no grub. Thata da business." And then, to show that it was purely business
foresight and not prejudice, "Hava da drink on da house - good friends justa da
So Martin drank, in his easy way, to show that he was good friends with the
house, and then went supperless to bed.
The fruit store, where Martin had bought his vegetables, was run by an American
whose business principles were so weak that he let Martin run a bill of five dollars
before stopping his credit. The baker stopped at two dollars, and the butcher at
four dollars. Martin added his debts and found that he was possessed of a total
credit in all the world of fourteen dollars and eighty-five cents. He was up with his
type-writer rent, but he estimated that he could get two months' credit on that,
which would be eight dollars. When that occurred, he would have exhausted all
possible credit.
The last purchase from the fruit store had been a sack of potatoes, and for a
week he had potatoes, and nothing but potatoes, three times a day. An
occasional dinner at Ruth's helped to keep strength in his body, though he found
it tantalizing enough to refuse further helping when his appetite was raging at
sight of so much food spread before it. Now and again, though afflicted with
secret shame, he dropped in at his sister's at meal-time and ate as much as he
dared - more than he dared at the Morse table.
Day by day he worked on, and day by day the postman delivered to him rejected
manuscripts. He had no money for stamps, so the manuscripts accumulated in a