Graham was waiting in Clayton's dressing-room when he went up-stairs. Through
the closed door they could hear Natalie's sleepy and rather fretful orders to her
maid. Graham rose when he entered, and threw away his cigaret.
"I guess it has come, father."
"It looks like it."
A great wave of tenderness for the boy flooded over him. That tall, straight body,
cast in his own mold, but young, only ready to live, that was to be cast into the
crucible of war, to come out - God alone knew how. And not his boy only, but
millions of other boys. Yet - better to break the body than ruin the soul.
"How is mother taking it?"
Natalie's voice came through the door. She was insisting that the house be kept
quiet the next morning. She wanted to sleep late. Clayton caught the boy's eyes
on him, and a half smile on his face.
"Does she know?"
"She isn't taking it very hard, is she?" Then his voice changed. "I wish you'd talk
to her, father. She's - well, she's got me! You see, I promised her not to go in
without her consent."
"When did you do that?"
"The night we broke with Germany in February. I was a fool, but she was crying,
and I didn't know what else to do. And" - there was a ring of desperation in his
voice - "she's holding me to it. I've been to her over and over again."
"And you want to go?" "Want to go! I've got to go."
He broke out then into a wild appeal. He wanted to get away. He was making a
mess of all sorts of things. He wasn't any good. He would try to make good in the
army. Maybe it was only the adventure he wanted - he didn't know. He hadn't
gone into that. He hated the Germans. He wanted one chance at them, anyhow.
They were beasts.
Clayton, listening, was amazed at the depth of feeling and anger in his voice.
"I'll talk to your mother," he agreed, when the boy's passion had spent itself. "I
think she will release you." But he was less certain than he pretended to be. He
remembered Natalie's drooping eyelids that night at dinner. She might absolve
him from the promise, but there were other ways of holding him back than
"Perhaps we would better go into the situation thoroughly," he suggested. "I have
rather understood, lately, that you - what about Marion Hayden, Graham?"
"I'm engaged to her."
There was rather a long pause. Clayton's face was expressionless.
"Last fall, sir."