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Dangerous Days

Chapter 33
The declaration of war found Graham desperately unhappy. Natalie held him
rigidly to his promise, but it is doubtful if Natalie alone could have kept, him out of
the army. Marion was using her influence, too! She held him by alternating
between almost agreeing to runaway marriage and threats of breaking the
engagement if he went to war. She had tacitly agreed to play Natalie's game, and
she was doing it.
Graham did not analyze his own misery. What he said to himself was that he was
making a mess of things. Life, which had seemed to be a simple thing,
compounded of work and play, had become involved, difficult and wretched.
Some times he watched Clayton almost with envy. He seemed so sure of
himself; he was so poised, so calm, so strong. And he wondered if there had
been a tumultuous youth behind the quiet of his maturity. He compared the even
course of Clayton's days, his work, his club, the immaculate orderliness of his
life, with his own disordered existence.
He was hedged about with women. Wherever he turned, they obtruded
themselves. He made plans and women brushed them aside. He tried to live his
iife, and women stepped in and lived it for him. His mother, Marion, Anna Klein.
Even Delight, with her friendship always overclouded with disapproval. Wherever
he turned, a woman stood in the way. Yet he could not do without them. He
needed them even while he resented them.
Then, gradually, into his self-engrossment there penetrated a conviction that all
was not well between his father and his mother. He had always taken them for
granted much as he did the house and the servants. In his brief vacations during
his college days they had agreed or disagreed, amicably enough. He had
considered, in those days, that life was a very simple thing. People married and
lived together. Marriage, he considered, was rather the end of things.
But he was older now, and he knew that marriage was a beginning and not an
end. It did not change people fundamentally. It only changed their habits.
His discovery that his father and mother differed about the war was the first of
other discoveries; that they differed about him; that they differed about many
matters; that, indeed, they had no common ground at all on which to meet;
between them, although Graham did not put it that way, was a No-Man's Land
strewn with dead happiness, lost desires, and the wreckage of years of
dissension.
It was incredible to Graham that he should ever reach the forties, but he
wondered some times if all of life was either looking forward or looking back. And
it seemed to him rather tragic that for Clayton, who still looked like a boy, there
should be nothing but his day at the mill, his silent evening at home, or some
stodgy dinner-party where the women were all middle-aged, and the other men a
trifle corpulent.
For the first time he was beginning to think of Clayton as a man, rather than a
father.
 
 
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