“Come here, Alfred,[30 - Alfred – Алфред]” he called to the crying child. He put a quarter[31 - a quarter – монета в двадцать пять центов] in the youngster’s hand and held him in his arms a moment. “Now run along and get some candy, and don’t forget to give some to your brothers and sisters.”
His sister looked at him. The tears welled into her eyes.
“You’ll find breakfast in the oven,” she said hurriedly.
Martin went into the kitchen. Then he went downstairs and out into the street. He had debated between the Berkeley Library and the Oakland Library, and chose the latter because Ruth lived in Oakland. He wandered through endless rows of books, and did not know what to ask the man at the desk.
“Did you find what you wanted?” the man at the desk asked him as he was leaving.
“Yes, sir,” he answered. “You have a fine library here.”
The man nodded. “We should be glad to see you here often. Are you a sailor?”
“Yes, sir,” he answered. “And I’ll come again.”
Now, how did he know that? he asked himself as he went down the stairs.
Martin Eden was afraid that he might visit Ruth too soon. He spent long hours in the Oakland and Berkeley libraries. He burned the gas late in the servant’s room, and was charged fifty cents a week for it by Mr. Higginbotham.
He read many books; every page of every book was a hole into the realm of knowledge. His hunger increased. He read more of Swinburne than was contained in the volume Ruth had given him. Then he studied Kipling’s poems. Psychology was a new word in Martin’s vocabulary.
He dared not go near Ruth’s house in the daytime, but at night he was lurking like a thief around the Morse home.
He had undergone a moral revolution. Her cleanness and purity made him clean, too. He began to brush his teeth, and used a nail-brush. He found a book in the library on the care of the body, and promptly decided to have a cold-water bath every morning.
The reform went deeper. He still smoked, but he drank no more. He was drunken in new and more profound ways – with Ruth, who had fired him with love and with a glimpse of higher and eternal life; with books, and with the sense of personal cleanliness.
One night he went to the theatre, and from the second balcony he did see her. He saw her with Arthur and a strange young man with eyeglasses.
He left his seat before the curtain went down on the last act. He wanted to see her again. Suddenly two girls appeared. One of them was a slender, dark girl, with black, defiant eyes. They smiled at him, and he smiled back.
“Hello,” he said.
It was automatic. The black-eyed girl smiled, and showed signs of stopping. At the corner where the main stream of people flowed onward, he started to follow the cross street. But the girl with the black eyes caught his arm, and cried:
“Bill! Where are you going?”
He halted with a laugh, and turned back.
“What’s her name?” he asked the giggling girl, nodding at the dark-eyed one.
“You ask her,” was the response.
“Well, what is it?” he demanded, turning on the girl in question.
“You didn’t tell me yours, yet,” she retorted.
“You never asked it,” he smiled. “But, true, it’s Bill, all right, all right.”
“Oh,” she looked him in the eyes. “What is it, honest?”
Oh, he knew those girls, and knew them well, from A to Z. They work hard, they are nervously desirous for some happiness in the desert of existence.
“Bill,” he answered, nodding his head. “Sure, Bill and no other.”
“He isn’t Bill at all,” her friend noticed.
“How do you know?” he demanded. “You never saw me before.”
“No need to, to know you’re lying,” was the retort.
Those girls from the factory… The cheap cloth, the cheap ribbons, and the cheap rings on the fingers. He felt a tug at his arm, and heard a voice saying:
“Wake up, Bill! What’s the matter with you?”
“What were you saying?” he asked. “There’s only one thing wrong with the programme,” he said aloud. “I’ve got a date already.”
The girl’s eyes blazed her disappointment.
“To visit a sick friend, I suppose?” she sneered.
“No, a real, honest date with – ” he faltered, “with a girl. But why can’t we meet some other time? You didn’t tell me your name. And where do you live?”
“Lizzie,” she replied, her hand pressing his arm, while her body leaned against his. “Lizzie Connolly.[32 - Lizzie Connolly – Лиззи Конноли]”