Dangerous Days HTML version
In the evening of the thirty-first of January Clayton and Graham were waiting for
Natalie to come down to dinner when the bell rang, and Dunbar was announced.
Graham welcomed the interruption. He had been vaguely uneasy with his father
since that day in his office when Clayton had found him on Anna Klein's desk.
Clayton had tried to restore the old friendliness of their relation, but the boy had
only half-heartedly met his advances. Now and then he himself made an
overture, but it was the almost timid advance of a puppy that has been beaten. It
left Clayton discouraged and alarmed, set him to going back over the past for any
severity on his part to justify it. Now and then he wondered if, in Graham's
frequent closetings with Natalie, she did not covertly undermine his influence with
the boy, to increase her own.
But if she did, why? What was going on behind the impassive, lovely mask that
was her face.
Dunbar was abrupt, as usual.
"I've brought you some news, Mr. Spencer," he said. He looked oddly vital and
alive in the subdued and quiet room. "They've shown their hand at last. But
maybe you've heard it."
"I've heard nothing new."
"Then listen," said Dunbar, bending forward over a table, much as it was his habit
to bend over Clayton's desk. "We're in it at last. Or as good as in it. Unrestricted
submarine warfare! All merchant-ships bound to and from Allied ports to be sunk
without warning! We're to be allowed - mark this, it's funny! - we're to be allowed
to send one ship a week to England, nicely marked and carrying passengers
There was a little pause. Clayton drew a long breath.
"That means war," he said finally.
"Hell turned over and stirred up with a pitch-fork, if we have any backbone at all,"
agreed Dunbar. He turned to Graham. "You young fellows'll be crazy about this."
"You bet we will," said Graham.
Clayton slipped an arm about the boy's shoulders. He could not speak for a
moment. All at once he saw what the news meant. He saw Graham going into
the horror across the sea. He saw vast lines of marching men, boys like Graham,
boys who had frolicked through their careless days, whistled and played and
slept sound of nights, now laden like pack~animals and carrying the implements
of death in their hands, going forward to something too terrible to contemplate.
And a certain sure percentage of them would never come back.
His arm tightened about the boy. When he withdrew it Graham straightened.
"If it's war, it's my war, father."
And Clayton replied, quietly:
"It is your war, old man."
Dunbar turned his back and inspected Natalie's portrait. When he faced about
again Graham was lighting a cigaret, and Natalie herself was entering the room.
In her rose-colored satin she looked exotic, beautiful, and Dunbar gave her a