Martin Eden HTML version

Chapter 15
"The first battle, fought and finished," Martin said to the looking-glass ten days
later. "But there will be a second battle, and a third battle, and battles to the end
of time, unless - "
He had not finished the sentence, but looked about the mean little room and let
his eyes dwell sadly upon a heap of returned manuscripts, still in their long
envelopes, which lay in a corner on the floor. He had no stamps with which to
continue them on their travels, and for a week they had been piling up. More of
them would come in on the morrow, and on the next day, and the next, till they
were all in. And he would be unable to start them out again. He was a month's
rent behind on the typewriter, which he could not pay, having barely enough for
the week's board which was due and for the employment office fees.
He sat down and regarded the table thoughtfully. There were ink stains upon it,
and he suddenly discovered that he was fond of it.
"Dear old table," he said, "I've spent some happy hours with you, and you've
been a pretty good friend when all is said and done. You never turned me down,
never passed me out a reward-of-unmerit rejection slip, never complained about
working overtime."
He dropped his arms upon the table and buried his face in them. His throat was
aching, and he wanted to cry. It reminded him of his first fight, when he was six
years old, when he punched away with the tears running down his cheeks while
the other boy, two years his elder, had beaten and pounded him into exhaustion.
He saw the ring of boys, howling like barbarians as he went down at last, writhing
in the throes of nausea, the blood streaming from his nose and the tears from his
bruised eyes.
"Poor little shaver," he murmured. "And you're just as badly licked now. You're
beaten to a pulp. You're down and out."
But the vision of that first fight still lingered under his eyelids, and as he watched
he saw it dissolve and reshape into the series of fights which had followed. Six
months later Cheese-Face (that was the boy) had whipped him again. But he had
blacked Cheese-Face's eye that time. That was going some. He saw them all,
fight after fight, himself always whipped and Cheese-Face exulting over him. But
he had never run away. He felt strengthened by the memory of that. He had
always stayed and taken his medicine. Cheese-Face had been a little fiend at
fighting, and had never once shown mercy to him. But he had stayed! He had
stayed with it!