Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 12
Early one evening, struggling with a sonnet that twisted all awry the beauty and
thought that trailed in glow and vapor through his brain, Martin was called to the
"It's a lady's voice, a fine lady's," Mr. Higginbotham, who had called him, jeered.
Martin went to the telephone in the corner of the room, and felt a wave of warmth
rush through him as he heard Ruth's voice. In his battle with the sonnet he had
forgotten her existence, and at the sound of her voice his love for her smote him
like a sudden blow. And such a voice! - delicate and sweet, like a strain of music
heard far off and faint, or, better, like a bell of silver, a perfect tone, crystal-pure.
No mere woman had a voice like that. There was something celestial about it,
and it came from other worlds. He could scarcely hear what it said, so ravished
was he, though he controlled his face, for he knew that Mr. Higginbotham's ferret
eyes were fixed upon him.
It was not much that Ruth wanted to say - merely that Norman had been going to
take her to a lecture that night, but that he had a headache, and she was so
disappointed, and she had the tickets, and that if he had no other engagement,
would he be good enough to take her?
Would he! He fought to suppress the eagerness in his voice. It was amazing. He
had always seen her in her own house. And he had never dared to ask her to go
anywhere with him. Quite irrelevantly, still at the telephone and talking with her,
he felt an overpowering desire to die for her, and visions of heroic sacrifice
shaped and dissolved in his whirling brain. He loved her so much, so terribly, so
hopelessly. In that moment of mad happiness that she should go out with him, go
to a lecture with him - with him, Martin Eden - she soared so far above him that
there seemed nothing else for him to do than die for her. It was the only fit way in
which he could express the tremendous and lofty emotion he felt for her. It was
the sublime abnegation of true love that comes to all lovers, and it came to him
there, at the telephone, in a whirlwind of fire and glory; and to die for her, he felt,
was to have lived and loved well. And he was only twenty- one, and he had never
been in love before.
His hand trembled as he hung up the receiver, and he was weak from the organ
which had stirred him. His eyes were shining like an angel's, and his face was
transfigured, purged of all earthly dross, and pure and holy.
"Makin' dates outside, eh?" his brother-in-law sneered. "You know what that
means. You'll be in the police court yet."