Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 30
On a beautiful fall day, a day of similar Indian summer to that which had seen
their love declared the year before, Martin read his "Love-cycle" to Ruth. It was in
the afternoon, and, as before, they had ridden out to their favorite knoll in the
hills. Now and again she had interrupted his reading with exclamations of
pleasure, and now, as he laid the last sheet of manuscript with its fellows, he
waited her judgment.
She delayed to speak, and at last she spoke haltingly, hesitating to frame in
words the harshness of her thought.
"I think they are beautiful, very beautiful," she said; "but you can't sell them, can
you? You see what I mean," she said, almost pleaded. "This writing of yours is
not practical. Something is the matter - maybe it is with the market - that prevents
you from earning a living by it. And please, dear, don't misunderstand me. I am
flattered, and made proud, and all that - I could not be a true woman were it
otherwise - that you should write these poems to me. But they do not make our
marriage possible. Don't you see, Martin? Don't think me mercenary. It is love,
the thought of our future, with which I am burdened. A whole year has gone by
since we learned we loved each other, and our wedding day is no nearer. Don't
think me immodest in thus talking about our wedding, for really I have my heart,
all that I am, at stake. Why don't you try to get work on a newspaper, if you are
so bound up in your writing? Why not become a reporter? - for a while, at least?"
"It would spoil my style," was his answer, in a low, monotonous voice. "You have
no idea how I've worked for style."
"But those storiettes," she argued. "You called them hack-work. You wrote many
of them. Didn't they spoil your style?"
"No, the cases are different. The storiettes were ground out, jaded, at the end of
a long day of application to style. But a reporter's work is all hack from morning
till night, is the one paramount thing of life. And it is a whirlwind life, the life of the
moment, with neither past nor future, and certainly without thought of any style
but reportorial style, and that certainly is not literature. To become a reporter
now, just as my style is taking form, crystallizing, would be to commit literary
suicide. As it is, every storiette, every word of every storiette, was a violation of
myself, of my self-respect, of my respect for beauty. I tell you it was sickening. I
was guilty of sin. And I was secretly glad when the markets failed, even if my
clothes did go into pawn. But the joy of writing the 'Love-cycle'! The creative joy
in its noblest form! That was compensation for everything."