Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 6
A terrible restlessness that was akin to hunger afflicted Martin Eden. He was
famished for a sight of the girl whose slender hands had gripped his life with a
giant's grasp. He could not steel himself to call upon her. He was afraid that he
might call too soon, and so be guilty of an awful breach of that awful thing called
etiquette. He spent long hours in the Oakland and Berkeley libraries, and made
out application blanks for membership for himself, his sisters Gertrude and
Marian, and Jim, the latter's consent being obtained at the expense of several
glasses of beer. With four cards permitting him to draw books, he burned the gas
late in the servant's room, and was charged fifty cents a week for it by Mr.
The many books he read but served to whet his unrest. Every page of every
book was a peep-hole into the realm of knowledge. His hunger fed upon what he
read, and increased. Also, he did not know where to begin, and continually
suffered from lack of preparation. The commonest references, that he could see
plainly every reader was expected to know, he did not know. And the same was
true of the poetry he read which maddened him with delight. He read more of
Swinburne than was contained in the volume Ruth had lent him; and "Dolores"
he understood thoroughly. But surely Ruth did not understand it, he concluded.
How could she, living the refined life she did? Then he chanced upon Kipling's
poems, and was swept away by the lilt and swing and glamour with which
familiar things had been invested. He was amazed at the man's sympathy with
life and at his incisive psychology. PSYCHOLOGY was a new word in Martin's
vocabulary. He had bought a dictionary, which deed had decreased his supply of
money and brought nearer the day on which he must sail in search of more. Also,
it incensed Mr. Higginbotham, who would have preferred the money taking the
form of board.
He dared not go near Ruth's neighborhood in the daytime, but night found him
lurking like a thief around the Morse home, stealing glimpses at the windows and
loving the very walls that sheltered her. Several times he barely escaped being
caught by her brothers, and once he trailed Mr. Morse down town and studied his
face in the lighted streets, longing all the while for some quick danger of death to
threaten so that he might spring in and save her father. On another night, his vigil
was rewarded by a glimpse of Ruth through a second-story window. He saw only
her head and shoulders, and her arms raised as she fixed her hair before a
mirror. It was only for a moment, but it was a long moment to him, during which
his blood turned to wine and sang through his veins. Then she pulled down the
shade. But it was her room - he had learned that; and thereafter he strayed there
often, hiding under a dark tree on the opposite side of the street and smoking
countless cigarettes. One afternoon he saw her mother coming out of a bank,
and received another proof of the enormous distance that separated Ruth from