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Thread: Charles Reginald Jackson

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    Default Charles Reginald Jackson

    Charles Jackson: some sort of (Introverted and) ethical/Feeling type (EII-Ne?, IEI-Ni?, or ESI?)


    - from The Fall of Valor by Charles Jackson; pp. 6-8: Though outwardly his life had been going well indeed, John Grandin had lately found himself living under an emotional suspense. For hours, sometimes, he had a sense that something was about to happen to him, something untoward, perverse, impossible to fit into his comfortably ordered life; then the feeling would pass and he would forget it until it came up again. It interrupted his work, interfered with his attentions to his family and to family duties, left his mind far from at rest. Working of an evening in his study—or even of an afternoon, in broad daylight—he would lift his head, his senses all aware, and catch himself in the act of expressing the baffling thought: When will the blow fall? What would he do when it did fall, what kind of blow would it be? For months his thinking had never been wholly his own, for something or someone seemed to be thinking for him and through him. In the back of his mind lay a vague and fearful uncertainty, a reminder of doom, so that he found himself wondering, even almost casually (it had become so habitual by now): Now what was it I was feeling or supposed to feel bad about?—as if he had lately passed through a harrowing experience which, though he had deliberately put it behind him, still lingered in his mind, sent reverberations of its unpleasantness into his everyday thought, and somewhere lay dormant but still menacing, still liable to waken again. When it intruded itself actively, he could almost have declared for his own peace of mind: Very well, I’m guilty, they’ve found me out, the police will arrive any moment now, Ethel will leave me, the children will be taken away, I’ll lose everything and have to serve my term—and I’ll feel better . . . But what he would lose, or why, was the mystery.

    He attributed it to the war. Everywhere in the world the blow was falling. Safe in his study, with no connection whatever with what was going on abroad, it would yet reach him and fall. At times, hearing in the midnight quiet of the house the voice of his conscience, he would step to the door of his study to listen for the heavy sleepful reassuring breathing of Ethel in her bed, or go into the children’s room to see if they were all right or (absurd thought!) still there. Even as he felt in the dark to see if they were tucked in and covered, his fears vanished, he forgot the unfounded apprehensions, and he would tiptoe from the room with a sense of gratification keener and more moving than any other he had ever experienced in his life. Returned to his study, the sense of the blow that was yet to fall would also return; or it might hold itself off, to rise up again in an unguarded moment during the middle of a bright afternoon several days later, giving him no relief; for relief would only come when the secret was out (if secret it was), the nature of the crime named and accepted. There was nothing he had “done,” nothing to feel guilty about. Perhaps in the course of time, he thought, he would come through it and live it down.—But what in thunder had he to “live down”? Simply that he had been a better teacher, a deeper student, a more honest man than his fellows; and had striven for truth more than for success. It was a thought tainted with vanity, he could not have brought himself to express it in so many words, but all the same he knew in his heart that, though he had done little in his life and had little to show for it, he would take to his grave more than most people ever had.

    He stepped into the hall and pulled the door to. As it slammed shut, he heard the firetongs fall with a bang again, a harsh clank that sounded all along the hall; but to hell with it now, he thought. He descended in the rickety cage of the lift and walked to the bus stop on the corner.



    - pp. 48-51: Ethel Grandin was aroused by a cry in the car. An infant a few seats away had set up a piercing catlike waul, and the distraught mother tried to shush her child with loud hissing sounds like escaping steam. The young sailor caught her eye and gave her a wink. “Some fun, eh lady?” She smiled politely, then picked up her book and pretended to read. There was nothing on earth she had to say to him — small talk, even with intimates, came hard with her — and whatever he might want to say to her would, she felt, be embarrassing and familiar.

    If her husband had already become indifferent or preoccupied, what would he not be like when he assumed his new faculty duties next semester, giving so much of himself in conference with the individual students of the new class? And if the new book were to become a success (which of course she hoped for), his interests would be further drawn to other fields, fields in which she could not follow him, in which she had no part. She had read the manuscript and been impressed by its scholarship, but what had impressed her even more was that she did not know this man. And yet, though it was bitter proof that he lived in a world of ideas and interests far from her own, it did not seem even remotely to explain why he had lately been ignoring her so utterly.

    Defensively, she had tried to become as aloof as he. As a kind of test, she had taken to going to bed without kissing him good night. She merely said “Good night” and left the room. Surprisingly, he had protested. It was unheard of; didn’t he count for anything, didn’t she want to kiss him good night—didn’t husbands and wives always, as a matter of course if for no other reason, kiss one another good night? It seemed to have become a symbol to him (as to her) of their growing estrangement; if they abandoned the good-night kiss they might as well openly admit failure and give up. So she made it a point again of going up to him before she left the room and kissing him on the mouth. But an artificiality had crept into it which puzzled her. She felt none of the old pleasure, because of some withdrawal in him which she could not but reflect. Indeed, she experienced an involuntary impulse to draw back at the moment, or kiss him coldly as a sister or cousin, so that there was no satisfaction in it for either of them beyond the observance of the formality; and after a few nights of this, the good-night kiss was abandoned again as a failure—with what feelings on his part she would perhaps never know.


    It did not even seem to be resignation; yet a self-conscious and curious pretense constrained them both, now, as the indifferent good nights were said. She had only contempt for those husbands and wives who constantly kissed one another in the presence of others, as if publicly to declare, out of some basic insecurity or make-believe, that they were still in love or that a nonexistent love still flourished. This custom, so prevalent in American life, seemed to her suspect; in the privacy of her own living room, with no one looking on, she could no more have brought herself to do such a thing if her feelings were not in it than she could have flown; and from hating herself for keeping up the pretense, she would have despised her husband as well, had she suspected he was playing up for her benefit or his. Now when she left the room for bed with her book or magazine she merely said “Good night” in strained tones which may or may not have been lost on him; and he, behind a mask of casualness better than her own, replied from his chair, “Good night—sleep well.” How these good nights had changed from what they had been like in the past, only he or she (out of happy memories that recalled moments far different) could have said.

    Ethel Grandin had no patience with women who complained that they had given the best years of their lives to their husbands. Of course they had!—and why not?—and what else did a woman want or expect to do? For that matter hadn’t he, if the phrase must be used, given his best years too? They had been wonderful years, but time was fast slipping away; in the phrase equally common, she was getting no younger. If the marriage she had been building on for so long was to come to nothing, what would become of her? She was thirty-four, not old; but life would offer her no second chance. Nor did she want another, provided her marriage could be restored. If she must face the fact that she was no longer needed or wanted—children or no children, she would rather die.


    Could she leave him—take the boys and leave? It was impossible. Regardless of her unhappiness, it wasn’t right to think of herself before the children. Alan and Ted loved their father; and for her to deprive them of his love because he had become indifferent to her was the kind of selfishness it was not in her to give in to. It was impossible also that she could ever love another man. She was the kind who gave only once, and all; there was nothing left for her if she was not wanted by the one man she loved. The uncertainty of whether or not he still loved her was undoing her; interiorly she was going to pieces, developing a self-distaste which very possibly contributed to their dilemma as much as his own indifference, for he was a perceptive man and saw these things.


    - pp. 10-14: Though his luggage was already at the station, having been taken down the evening before when he picked up his reservation, and he had no other thing to carry but the book in his pocket, John Grandin decided at the last moment to take a cab, feeling already a holiday mood and anxious to induce as quickly as possible the sense of lightheartedness and irresponsibility befitting a vacation; almost (for cabs were not his his habit) a reaching for recklessness and luxury. Yes, “luxury” in the Elizabethan usage too, he told himself, welcoming the thought: an indulging of the senses. Civilians had been asked not to use taxis except in emergencies and ordinarily he observed these conditions, just as he and his wife conscientiously observed all the wartime regulations. But this was an occasion, and different. He waved no to the bus about to pull in at the curb, and hailed a cab.

    The day had begun hot. It was June 25, 1943—full summer, with a real summer haze lying over the city, though the season was not yet a week old. He sank back in the taxi as if already in a deck chair and told the driver Grand Central. With a racing of the motor, the cab pulled away from 116th and the Drive.

    It was a vacation well earned, much needed, long looked-forward-to, and all the more precious because it was to be short. Other men in the English Department were to be off till September but he had signed up for summer school again, and not entirely because he liked teaching: there was a shortage of men during the war and he had volunteered to help out. As the cab swung down Riverside Drive in the early damp June morning, with the buildings across the river already trembling in waves of heat, the one troubling thought in John Grandin’s mind was that he must be back in two weeks.

    The thought did not bother him long; for meanwhile there was to be the holiday with his wife, their first together in some time, away from the children, in a seaside place they had never visited before. Ethel had left a week earlier to take the children to her parents’ home in Maine and was to meet him this afternoon at Woods Hole, where they would board the boat to Nantucket—to arrive at Sconset, the hotel folder assured them, in time for dinner. For the duration, Dune House could not send a car; the island bus would meet them at the pier.

    “For the duration”—it had a finality, a suggestion of everlastingness, out of all proportion to its literal sense; and the worst of it was, no one needed to complete the phrase. What it referred to was universally understood—as if, in these changing times, only one thing had “duration.”

    It was the second summer of the war, for other countries the fourth (the seventh for still others): it lived with one now. Sheltered civilian though he was, he felt it keenly, and was increasingly fretted by tiny, irrational, but disturbing obsessions he could not shake, petty irritations of which he was ashamed, in view of the realer upheavals abroad. All life was changing alarmingly fast, including one’s very vocabulary. A blouse was not a man’s shirt or a woman’s waist but the jacket of a uniform; a battle was no longer an engagement between two armies met in the field but the overrunning, by land and sea and air, of whole nations, so that one spoke of the Battle of France or the Battle of Italy—not, as in the old days, the battle of provincial localities such as Soissons or the Marne; and terms like for the duration had come to be part of daily speech, so familiar as almost to have lost their original meaning. Added to this was the encroachment of the war on the classroom, in the form of more and more students in uniform or fewer and fewer boys. John Grandin looked out from under the gaily striped awning of the open cab, its scalloped edges flapping noisily in the hot breeze, and willfully did not see the line of destroyers idling on the Hudson, the ugly transports and freighters riding high in the water, awaiting the portentous cargoes that were to be taken, under armed convoy, to secret foreign ports. He saw, but did not think of them. Instead he thought of the Nantucket steamer and wondered what it would be like . . . A man with an accordion would come round, there would be shoeshine boys, pennants would fly and hats would blow away. . . .

    . . . And Ethel would be dressed attractively and sensibly in a fall suit, against the possible chill of the ocean breeze, with no flapping taffeta or whipping silk; and later, on the island itself, in a linen shirt and skirt, scorning the halters and shorts, the slacks and dungarees, that other women affected at vacation resorts. During the trip over, she would speak of the boys or question him about the apartment, characteristically avoiding any mention of what would be uppermost in her mind: their holiday together.

    The book was crowding his pocket. He pulled it out. Apprehensive that he might leave it on the seat and forget it, he kept it in his hand. Instinctively, from old habit, he held the book upside down, its cover and title against him, so that no one might see what he was reading when he should walk through the station. Why he did this, he could not have said. He would have done the same had it been a popular novel, the diary of a war correspondent, or a learned work on philosophy or metaphysics.

    The taxi was moving through Columbus Circle. The city air was close and thick, heavy with damp. What it needed was an island breeze, Grandin thought: Manhattan was hardly one’s idea of an island. The motorman of the old-fashioned trolley that rumbled noisily along beside the taxi wore a blue shirt, and his back was black with sweat. Scarcely a man was to be seen in the street with a coat on. Several persons had already lined up at the ticket window of a movie. Imagine going to the movies so early in the morning, he reflected, or in the daytime at all; but of course all they wanted was to get inside, out of the heat, in a place that was air cooled.

    The choice had been either two weeks at this time—the last in June, the first in July—or three full weeks later on, between the closing of summer school and the start of the fall semester; but after they consulted the calendar, there had really been no choice at all. A full moon was due a few days hence; it was this which had decided his wife, and himself as well.

    Had it been a mistake? Because he did not like to be ruled by such things, he thought with some distaste of the sentimental notion which had done him out of a longer holiday later. But anxious to please, anxious to make her happy (which of course meant his own happiness too), he had gladly given in to his wife. Ethel must have a full moon. Like a romantic schoolgirl she believed that a vacation was not a vacation without a moon; and though she did not express the idea in words, he recognized that her anxiety to be in Nantucket when the moon was full implied a compliment to their relationship, a tacit but perhaps wishful declaration that they were still lovers.


    - pp. 20-22: He did not mind having to walk the rest of the way. It was, as the driver had said, only a step. What he minded was the interruption; particularly the nature of it. It threw him off.

    With other pedestrians, a few of whom now and again left off watching and broke through the marching barrier as if they had no time for this sort of thing and must be about their business, he stood on the sidewalk and watched the parade. He wanted badly to dart or step quickly between the advancing pairs and so be on his way, but he could not bring himself to do it.

    It was not a parade in any formal sense. The men were not marching in correct formation along the street but rather shuffled or ambled up the sidewalk in a long straggling group, barely keeping double file. They were men and boys of many ages. Some were in shirtsleeves, some wore sweaters in spite of the heat, a few were well dressed; they carried proper suitcases, or rolls of clothing, or paper bags; and it was clear to even the most casual observer that these men were on their way to the Induction Center on Lexington Avenue—that for them, in short, this was The Day.

    It was a sight so discomforting that John Grandin found himself embarrassed. Nor was he the only one. Others in the crowd around him watched the procession with an awkward expression which plainly said they would rather not have seen it. There was a strange silence in the street as the men passed along. Only the very young, only boys and young girls, greeted the draftees with smiles, laughter, or the catchphrases of the hour. The laughter rang hollowly in Grandin’s ears. He felt an impulse to plunge through the double column and get on, get away, get out of here—but he stood rooted to the sidewalk, touched with a melancholy respect.

    How different this seemed from other wars, other years. He remembered the gaiety of embarking soldiers in the past, the excitement and emotion of the frankly adoring crowd, the wave of solidarity that went out from everyone, till the cheering throng and the departing soldiers themselves were one great loving people, united in a wave of mass affection which for the moment was stronger, more enveloping, than any other emotion in life. It was not so here. There was a look of sheepishness on the faces of the crowd. An embarrassment and faint shame had fallen over the entire street.

    Most touching of all was the appearance of the men themselves. It struck right to his heart, it troubled and upset him. They were sheepish too, and silent. They straggled along hangdog and silly; they stared at the sidewalk in a ludicrous grin, or straight ahead, unseeingly, with jaw set; and occasionally one or two would send a bold defiant glance directly into the eyes of a bystander, as if to say, Go ahead, laugh. And it was by no means comforting to think that in a very few weeks all this would be different, the men would be changed, they would become proud and disciplined and alike, they would fit and belong together so that, in the mass, one could scarcely tell them apart, their native individuality, good or bad, lost in the necessary great machine of which they were to become each a resigned anonymous cog. John Grandin felt so uneasy that he could watch them no longer; and when the final pair of draftees had at last straggled by, he broke into a run toward Grand Central as if he barely had time to catch the last train on the timetable, the last to anywhere.



    - pp. 22-24: The train down from Boston was hot, noisy, and dirty. Ethel Grandin rode in the daycoach, not because there was no Pullman (she hadn’t inquired about that) but because it would have seemed extravagant to pay extra fare for a trip of only three hours; she disliked anything that suggested ostentation or luxury. Her luggage was piled in the rack above her head; one bag remained in the aisle, to the annoyance of passers-by, but that was something she could do nothing about. Each time the conductor came through he frowned darkly and seemed about to reprove this thoughtless passenger for cluttering up the aisle with her baggage; but after one look at the self-contained lady sitting coolly in her seat virtually surrounded by servicemen, he changed his mind and went on. In her lap were the sandwiches she would eat for lunch, and a detective story called Holy Murder which she tried at intervals to read. The thickset private who all but leaned against her shoulder and the two sailors sprawled in the seat facing her—one of whom rested his feet on the dingy plush upholstery between her and the soldier—eyed her parcel of sandwiches now and then, her book, or, more frequently, her legs.

    That the book did not hold her interest was more her husband’s fault than the storyteller’s; taking over her thought more and more, he stood between her and attention. She put the book aside and watched the passing landscape, but the soldier thought she was looking at him and returned the look; so she directed her gaze along the car instead, a little above the heads of the two sprawling sailors. One of them, a dark unshaven fellow, was about to fall asleep with his cheek against the windowpane and his mouth open; the other was a blond child in no more than his middle teens. It was he whose neatly polished shoes continually brushed her skirt—purposely or not, she couldn’t make out; and when he caught her eye he gave her a sly, insolent, yet boyish smile.


    Alan and Ted would have engaged both sailors in conversation at once, and the soldier as well; her husband would have done the same; but she could not bring herself to look squarely at these young men, much less converse with them. Like many women, Ethel Grandin loved the war, loved the fact that her country was in it, loved servicemen and the uniform; her eyes filled up with tears and her breast nearly burst at the sound and sight of martial music and a parade; but if a soldier or sailor accosted her on the street—or sparred for an opening to familiarity, as this boy seemed to be doing—all thought of the uniform vanished instantly and she could only regard him as what he was in actuality: a fresh kid.

    Some women would have laughed, thinking it funny, or cute; others might have been flattered. But she was not flattered and she did not think it cute. On the contrary, there was something distinctly unpleasant in the idea that he might think she would be interested in him. She stared with a fixed stare at the far end of the car, determined to think of other things and thus wipe him from her mind.



    - pp. 25-26: From the first he had been the only man who had ever understood her; but did he understand her now, or know her feelings at all? She remembered so clearly the first evening he had taken her home from a party, and why. It had been an embarrassing evening, with several silly people spoiling what might have been good talk. She had no social gift in the sense of being able to make conversation about nothing with men and women she didn’t care for or know well. Present had been a woman with a flair for dramatics who at one point in the evening began to entertain them all with palm reading. She took Ethel’s reluctant palm in her own, gazed at it with wide-eyed amaze, and gasped: “Look at that Mount of Venus! Did you ever see such a Mount of Venus in your life? I ask you!” Acutely embarrassed, Ethel Cameron found herself murmuring: “I’ve been told I have a murderer’s or a suicide’s hand.” The woman gazed at her darkly, held her speech for a dramatic moment, and then replied: “Well, it’s not a murderer’s hand.”—Of them all, John Grandin had been the only one who understood that Ethel had improvised her remark about the Mount of Venus) in an effort to take part, help out, give the woman something to go on. It had been silly of her to have suggested such a thing, but she had felt called upon to say something. Neither she nor John Grandin was foolish enough to attach any importance to the woman’s reckless interpretation, but they were both incensed by its stupidity. In a few moments they had left the party together; and an hour later (incredible to think of it now, since he had been, till then, such a stranger) they were making love.

    That night he had become the single soul in the world whose destiny (oh far more than the children’s) was irrevocably linked with hers.


    - pp. 29-35: Luckily he had not brought his book. It would have been impossible to read here. At least half a dozen men were ahead of him, squeezed together on the black settee that ran at right angles to the window or on the small leather seat near the door. With the exception of a good-looking lad in khaki, they were mostly middle-aged. He found a place to stand, out of the path of anyone who might wish to enter the lavatory, and lighted a cigarette.

    Of the men present, the one who stood out most prominently was the youth, and not entirely because of the uniform. Rather he was conspicuous because of the concentrated attention and admiration of the others. Grandin did not know what branch of service the young man was in, and so during a pause in the conversation he put the question into words.

    One of the men looked up sharply. “Can’t you see? He’s a paratrooper!”—and there was a silent exchange of surprise that he could have been so ignorant.

    He noticed, then, the patch on the boy’s shoulder. He marveled that they should have known to a man. So far as he recalled, he had never before seen that little red-and-white symbol; even if he had, he would not have known what it stood for. Army and Navy insignia (so generally known, it seemed, to all) he was totally unacquainted with—like the mysterious tables of a racing form, who played end for Notre Dame, and batting averages.

    The paratrooper was handsome in a lean-faced way, clean-cut, obviously of good family. He spoke readily of himself. After intensive training at a Georgia camp he was on short leave to visit his family at their summer home in Nantucket, where he had spent every summer since he was a child. Here was by no means the cutthroat young villain with an appetite for violence who, one heard nowadays, made the ideal paratrooper. This lad had aristocratic nostrils, fine hands, well-kept nails and teeth. He was personable and well bred, and he talked freely and well, without diffidence, certain that he was interesting to the older men.

    That he was not reticent was manifestly not his fault. The others pressed such admiring attention upon him and plied him with so many questions (calculated, usually, to show the knowledge of the questioner) that it would have turned the head of a less disciplined youth. Though nothing was known about him beyond the few facts he had himself disclosed, the paratrooper was already regarded with some awe as a hero. When details of his training were given out, the men exchanged glances and nods among themselves, murmuring audibly to one another, “Nice boy,” “Some life,” “Must take nerve,” and again, “Nice boy,” while the young man, pleased, pretended not to hear. John Grandin was touched and disturbed to notice how intense in the crowded little room was the feeling of admiration, even affection, for this youth whom they did not know. It was the uniform, of course, plus the danger; plus the fact that they were not young.

    The book he had brought along was lying on the floor by his chair, face down as he had left it. He picked it up, lowered the shade a trifle, and made himself comfortable to read.

    He did not know why, of all the volumes in his library, he should have chosen The Collected Poems of A. E. Housman for his journey. But it was a book he could always read and reread again, stay with for as little or as long as he liked, dip into anywhere and find something satisfying. So many pages were turned down at the corners and so many lines marked that he was distracted, at first, wondering what particular notion or response in the past had made him cite a certain passage or verse. Phrases were underscored which puzzled him now; try as he might, he could see no reason for most of them. He leafed through the volume, turned back the bent corners, and after a while was able to ignore the markings and enjoy himself.

    Enjoyment was hardly the word; he was in for a surprise he would not have believed possible in a book so familiar. The theme of the poems he remembered well, yet suddenly it seemed as if he had never really paid attention; certainly he had never felt its impact so strongly. Reduced to one of its simplest terms, this theme was that there was beauty and a lofty irony in the idea of youth stricken in untimely death, particularly on the battlefield; and it was sounded over and over with a delicate perfection that had once been breath-taking in its art. Verse after witty verse, so satisfying before, now struck him with repulsion. Beneath the grace of the most lightly turned stanza lay a cynicism bitter beyond even the poet’s wonderful words: morbid, macabre, necrophiliac—polluted with an amorousness, a virtual lust, for the grave. The verses smelled of rot; no felicity of phrase could mask the underlying sordid horror. The crowning offense, the very climax of the insult, lay in the fact that the theme of dead youth was strummed not only with charm but with wit. Epigrams! His intellect reacted with violence, he who believed in the freedom of art, without regard to subject matter, without restrictions political or otherwise; and he could only come to the shocking conclusion that in wartime such a volume should have been suppressed.—He went down again to the smoker.

    There was the same group admiring the handsome communicative paratrooper; but now, to his surprise, a large blond soldier in khaki and heavy GI boots sprang up and offered him his seat. The courtesy was so unexpected that for a moment John Grandin did not know how to deal with it. Of course he declined; he would have felt ridiculous indeed to take the place of a serviceman. Besides, the gesture was so patently that of youth to age, a young man’s politeness to an elder, that he was by turns amused and embarrassed. In their brief exchange he got the impression that the big soldier was probably from one of the daycoaches, come up to see what a Pullman was like, and not enjoying it much; he was uneasy and awkward, and seemed to sense keenly his anomalous position. Grandin further noted that the fellow had blue eyes, tawny curling hair bleached on top as if by long exposure to the sun, a well-tanned face; and he was, by any standards, enormous.

    One of the men left and he found a seat by the window, next to the soldier. He felt the pressure of the thick shoulder against his own; he did not like sitting that close to other men, especially strangers, but there was no room to pull away. The paratrooper, primed by his admirers held forth. The soldier listened with the others; he followed the paratrooper’s words with aloof but polite attention, his hands clasped tight over a wide knee, his elbows rigid at his sides, as if trying to take up as little room as possible. John Grandin felt his tension and he wanted to say: Relax, soldier; so long as you’re in uniform, you’re more than all right with this crowd.

    There could hardly have been a greater contrast between the awkward private and the confident, rather sophisticated paratrooper. The difference was so marked that the latter drew all the admiration, and the men paid small attention to the uncomfortable fellow too big for his clothes who sat hunched up on the settee. Whatever exchange of conversation there may have been between him and the others, or between the two soldiers, must have proved unsatisfactory, for the paratrooper dominated the little room as before, as if he were the only uniform present. His cigarette finished, Grandin dropped it into the cuspidor and went out; and as he left, the blond private flashed him a painfully polite and eager smile.

    The train was moving slowly through a fashionable parklike community and from the window he saw many pairs of white figures leaping about a series of tennis courts which, unless one looked sharply and concentrated on a certain court and quartet of players, might have been taken for a Manhattan playground alive with tenement children. Tennis balls zigzagged across his vision, blurred by the moving train till they resembled streamers of white tape; and John Grandin was reminded of the continuous tennis match outside his classroom which had had such a distracting effect on him all that spring. . . .

    On one of the first warm days of April he had become aware of the denk-dunk of tennis balls being batted back and forth beneath the room where he lectured. It was a pleasant sound; far from interrupting him, it brought a rather poetic accompaniment to his talk which was quite in keeping with the warm sunshine streaming in and the first sensual stirrings of summer which could be felt on the air. Each morning he meant to go to the window and look out at the players when class was dismissed; but for several days, in the intervals of changing classes, he forgot to do so. Then one morning about a month ago he stepped to the window. Twelve young men were playing on the three courts below; they wore white tennis shoes, thick white socks, and white shorts, nothing more; their shoulders were already bright pink with the beginnings of their summer tan. Involuntarily he moved a step back into the dark of the room and stood erect, looking obliquely down through the window at the thrusting lunging arms, the play of muscle across the lean backs, and the almost formless legs that seemed to have been fashioned cleanly and sparely, like pistons or driving rods, for action only; and he surprised in himself a stern disapproval. In his day, even on a campus that was not coeducational, shorts—or at least shorts only—had not been allowed. His irritation did not spring from priggishness. On the contrary, it arose from a full awareness of the Greeklike charm of the scene below: it was a Puritan disapproval because the sight was much too attractive, too pleasant to look at, there was work to be done, and this was no time for play. The vivid scene below started up a swarm of sensual images in his mind, images of youth, exercise, the outdoors which he had ignored too long, and impatience for summer to come. In short, it distracted him. Hundreds walked by the courts and gave no more than a passing glance at the players; but for the single passer-by who might be too absorbed by the spectacle—or for the one who, standing at his classroom window, was thrown off from his work—the costume was regrettable. Depressed, he went back to his desk in the semi-dark room to await the next students; and for days, thereafter, the denk-dunk-denk of tennis ball and racket continued to provide a kind of soft antiphonal background to his lectures. He wondered if the students were aware that he kept to his theme with difficulty; and for the remainder of the term he did not once go to the window to look down again at the players. . . .


    - pp. 39-41: In the chair behind him, someone was talking about swing. “You ought to study the new forms,” the voice said, “you really ought. Why, Lionel Hampton’s recording of [I]Central Avenue Breakdown[/] is as complicated and intricate as anything in Bach, père or fils. People don’t realize!” John Grandin picked up his copy of Life magazine.

    It fell open to the Picture-of-the-Week, the full-page photograph of the four dead marines, and this time he looked at it carefully and thoughtfully. The bodies lay face down on the beach, very near to the water’s edge, at rest at last in the sand that was so soon to pack them in. The beach was strewn with the broken fronds of palm trees, and in the background could be seen the bare stalks of the tree themselves, pitifully ragged and ravaged. A few feet beyond the inert bodies, the small last wash of the breakers slid nearer and nearer and spread itself in the sand. The palpable stillness of the scene, its unutterable loneliness, shrieked of the fury that had raged across the beach a short time before. But the fury was over, now, and all that had remained was the cameraman. Graphically, beyond the power of any words, the solitariness of death was brought home with a peculiar, a melancholy beauty—the collective dying that had become four lonely deaths, infinitely moving because each marine was now unaware of the photographer, of the beachhead won or lost, of the waves sliding close by, of each other, and of the unknown spectator, unmoved or unstrung, who regarded them from the comfort of a parlor-car chair. He closed the magazine and picked up his book.

    Suddenly he was ashamed of his reaction against the poems and the poet, ashamed that it could have been so violent; it had gone against every tenet of his background and taste. Who knew better than he that the theme of death-in-youth was more “suitable” to poetry and had always been more attractive to poets than any other theme in human experience; and while the heart was wrung, the aesthetic sense was exalted and satisfied. Let the artist make epigrams, even, if he chose, so long as the result was beautiful like its subject . . . Here dead lie we because we did not choose To live and shame the land from which we sprung. Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose; But young men think it is, and we were young . . . For centuries poets had been half in love with easeful Death; and the fact that the mused rime was well turned or the phrase felicitous by no means denied, but enhanced rather, the ironic or tragic emotion of the artist. Even so rugged a poet as his beloved Walt Whitman, who scorned the dandified decadence he had been complaining of, had celebrated the beauty of death in many a challenging manly chant . . . And was it Bach père or Bach fils, he asked himself with a smile, who had composed Come, Sweet Death?—His spirits lifted; he had, for the time being, recovered.


    - pp. 45-47: He pressed deeper into the comfort of his chair, then relaxed his every limb and muscle in the effort to induce sleep. Drowsy, he was about to drop off, but through half closed eyes he saw the familiar figure of the big blond private who had offered him his seat in the smoker appear at the end of the car and start coming his way.

    . . . Odd that he should have thought of the fellow as familiar; he had seen him only once before, and then for only a few moments. Now he realized he had not noticed, or for that matter missed, the presence of the soldier during his last few visits to the smoker. Perhaps he had been there, perhaps he had not. But in encountering him again, he experienced a recognition, a comfortable sense of friendliness toward him. It may have been the young man’s awkwardness, his appearance of being out of place, which had aroused his unconscious sympathy. He watched the fellow moving clumsily along the aisle, his great shoulders slightly raised, his arms outthrust to catch his balance as the car moved and swayed around a curve. The face looked typically American, the very personification of the American boy—the contemporary hero; so much so that he ceased almost to be an individual: he was the epitome of a type.

    As he reached Grandin’s chair, the towering figure gave a lunge and the hand caught hold of the luggage rack above Grandin’s head just in time to prevent his crashing against the windows. From this precarious position he looked down and smiled. John Grandin could not, for the moment, smile back; he was too struck by what was surely the most utterly winning smile he had ever seen in his life. When he recovered, the soldier had already gone on.

    He sat up, awake now. After a moment he picked up the magazine and turned again to the Picture-of-the-Week.

    Violence in a tropical setting was a commonplace, nowadays, so that an island beach, far from being the romantic image that men longed to escape to, had become a symbol of death. Characteristically he speculated on what these boys had been through or left behind, boys who could not have dreamed in the safety of their beds in their parents’ homes that they would end up in this outlandish way, riddled with bullets on a beach they never heard of — young men who had so much to give to love and who would never make love again. That marine in the foreground hugging the earth with an almost amorous concentration, the booted feet towed in and the left arm cushioning the cheek for his long assignation—he would like to have been there with him, to lug the death-heavy fellow farther up the sand out of reach of the creeping tide, there to cover him over with a blanket, perhaps, and to stay with him through the night.

    . . . But what need had he of blanket or vigil? Five minutes after the picture was taken, no doubt, the medical corps had hauled away the body, along with dozens of others, and the photographer had sent off the film to his paper, wondering whether this one would turn out to be the lucky shot out of hundreds of similar shots which he had been sending home since the campaign began. He closed the magazine and put it away for good; and as he did so, he was aware of a desire to turn back to the picture again and again.






    - John Grandin: Ni-ENTj or Ni-ENFj; or IEE/ILE?; or IEI/EII?

    - Ethel Grandin: ISFj (ESI-Fi?)

    - Cliff Hauman: SLE-Ti, LSE, SEE?, or LSI??

    - Billie Hauman: IEI-Fe, EII, or EIE-Ni??





    - from The Fall of Valor by Charles Jackson; pp. 6-8: Though outwardly his life had been

    going well indeed, John Grandin had lately found himself living under an emotional suspense. For

    hours, sometimes, he had a sense that something was about to happen to him, something

    untoward, perverse, impossible to fit into his comfortably ordered life; then the feeling would

    pass and he would forget it until it came up again. It interrupted his work, interfered with his

    attentions to his family and to family duties, left his mind far from at rest. Working of an

    evening in his study—or even of an afternoon, in broad daylight—he would lift his head, his

    senses all aware, and catch himself in the act of expressing the baffling thought: When will the

    blow fall? What would he do when it did fall, what kind of blow would it be? For months his

    thinking had never been wholly his own, for something or someone seemed to be thinking for

    him and through him. In the back of his mind lay a vague and fearful uncertainty, a reminder of

    doom, so that he found himself wondering, even almost casually (it had become so habitual by

    now): Now what was it I was feeling or supposed to feel bad about?—as if he had lately passed

    through a harrowing experience which, though he had deliberately put it behind him, still

    lingered in his mind, sent reverberations of its unpleasantness into his everyday thought, and

    somewhere lay dormant but still menacing, still liable to waken again. When it intruded itself

    actively, he could almost have declared for his own peace of mind: Very well, I’m guilty, they’ve

    found me out, the police will arrive any moment now, Ethel will leave me, the children will be

    taken away, I’ll lose everything and have to serve my term—and I’ll feel better . . . But what he

    would lose, or why, was the mystery.

    He attributed it to the war. Everywhere in the world the blow was falling. Safe in his study, with

    no connection whatever with what was going on abroad, it would yet reach him and fall. At

    times, hearing in the midnight quiet of the house the voice of his conscience, he would step to

    the door of his study to listen for the heavy sleepful reassuring breathing of Ethel in her bed, or

    go into the children’s room to see if they were all right or (absurd thought!) still there. Even as

    he felt in the dark to see if they were tucked in and covered, his fears vanished, he forgot the

    unfounded apprehensions, and he would tiptoe from the room with a sense of gratification

    keener and more moving than any other he had ever experienced in his life. Returned to his

    study, the sense of the blow that was yet to fall would also return; or it might hold itself off, to

    rise up again in an unguarded moment during the middle of a bright afternoon several days

    later, giving him no relief; for relief would only come when the secret was out (if secret it was),

    the nature of the crime named and accepted. There was nothing he had “done,” nothing to feel

    guilty about. Perhaps in the course of time, he thought, he would come through it and live it

    down.—But what in thunder had he to “live down”? Simply that he had been a better teacher, a

    deeper student, a more honest man than his fellows; and had striven for truth more than for

    success. It was a thought tainted with vanity, he could not have brought himself to express it in

    so many words, but all the same he knew in his heart that, though he had done little in his life

    and had little to show for it, he would take to his grave more than most people ever had.

    He stepped into the hall and pulled the door to. As it slammed shut, he heard the

    firetongs fall with a bang again, a harsh clank that sounded all along the hall; but to hell with it

    now, he thought. He descended in the rickety cage of the lift and walked to the bus stop on the

    corner.



    - pp. 48-51: Ethel Grandin was aroused by a cry in the car. An infant a few seats away had set

    up a piercing catlike waul, and the distraught mother tried to shush her child with loud hissing

    sounds like escaping steam. The young sailor caught her eye and gave her a wink. “Some fun, eh

    lady?” She smiled politely, then picked up her book and pretended to read. There was nothing

    on earth she had to say to him — small talk, even with intimates, came hard with her — and

    whatever he might want to say to her would, she felt, be embarrassing and familiar.


    If her husband had already become indifferent or preoccupied, what would he not be like when

    he assumed his new faculty duties next semester, giving so much of himself in conference with

    the individual students of the new class? And if the new book were to become a success (which

    of course she hoped for), his interests would be further drawn to other fields, fields in which

    she could not follow him, in which she had no part. She had read the manuscript and been

    impressed by its scholarship, but what had impressed her even more was that she did not know

    this man. And yet, though it was bitter proof that he lived in a world of ideas and interests far

    from her own, it did not seem even remotely to explain why he had lately been ignoring her so

    utterly.

    Defensively, she had tried to become as aloof as he. As a kind of test, she had taken to going to

    bed without kissing him good night. She merely said “Good night” and left the room.

    Surprisingly, he had protested. It was unheard of; didn’t he count for anything, didn’t she want

    to kiss him good night—didn’t husbands and wives always, as a matter of course if for no other

    reason, kiss one another good night? It seemed to have become a symbol to him (as to her) of

    their growing estrangement; if they abandoned the good-night kiss they might as well openly

    admit failure and give up. So she made it a point again of going up to him before she left the

    room and kissing him on the mouth. But an artificiality had crept into it which puzzled her. She

    felt none of the old pleasure, because of some withdrawal in him which she could not but

    reflect. Indeed, she experienced an involuntary impulse to draw back at the moment, or kiss

    him coldly as a sister or cousin, so that there was no satisfaction in it for either of them beyond

    the observance of the formality; and after a few nights of this, the good-night kiss was

    abandoned again as a failure—with what feelings on his part she would perhaps never know.


    It did not even seem to be resignation; yet a self-conscious and curious pretense constrained

    them both, now, as the indifferent good nights were said. She had only contempt for those

    husbands and wives who constantly kissed one another in the presence of others, as if publicly

    to declare, out of some basic insecurity or make-believe, that they were still in love or that a

    nonexistent love still flourished. This custom, so prevalent in American life, seemed to her

    suspect; in the privacy of her own living room, with no one looking on, she could no more have

    brought herself to do such a thing if her feelings were not in it than she could have flown; and

    from hating herself for keeping up the pretense, she would have despised her husband as well,

    had she suspected he was playing up for her benefit or his. Now when she left the room for

    bed with her book or magazine she merely said “Good night” in strained tones which may or

    may not have been lost on him; and he, behind a mask of casualness better than her own,

    replied from his chair, “Good night—sleep well.” How these good nights had changed from

    what they had been like in the past, only he or she (out of happy memories that recalled

    moments far different) could have said.

    Ethel Grandin had no patience with women who complained that they had given the best years

    of their lives to their husbands. Of course they had!—and why not?—and what else did a

    woman want or expect to do? For that matter hadn’t he, if the phrase must be used, given his

    best years too? They had been wonderful years, but time was fast slipping away; in the phrase

    equally common, she was getting no younger. If the marriage she had been building on for so

    long was to come to nothing, what would become of her? She was thirty-four, not old; but life

    would offer her no second chance. Nor did she want another, provided her marriage could be

    restored. If she must face the fact that she was no longer needed or wanted—children or no

    children, she would rather die.


    Could she leave him—take the boys and leave? It was impossible. Regardless of her

    unhappiness, it wasn’t right to think of herself before the children. Alan and Ted loved their

    father; and for her to deprive them of his love because he had become indifferent to her was

    the kind of selfishness it was not in her to give in to. It was impossible also that she could ever

    love another man. She was the kind who gave only once, and all; there was nothing left for her

    if she was not wanted by the one man she loved. The uncertainty of whether or not he still

    loved her was undoing her; interiorly she was going to pieces, developing a self-distaste which

    very possibly contributed to their dilemma as much as his own indifference, for he was a

    perceptive man and saw these things.


    - pp. 10-14: Though his luggage was already at the station, having been taken down the evening

    before when he picked up his reservation, and he had no other thing to carry but the book in

    his pocket, John Grandin decided at the last moment to take a cab, feeling already a holiday

    mood and anxious to induce as quickly as possible the sense of lightheartedness and

    irresponsibility befitting a vacation; almost (for cabs were not his his habit) a reaching for

    recklessness and luxury. Yes, “luxury” in the Elizabethan usage too, he told himself, welcoming

    the thought: an indulging of the senses. Civilians had been asked not to use taxis except in

    emergencies and ordinarily he observed these conditions, just as he and his wife conscientiously

    observed all the wartime regulations. But this was an occasion, and different. He waved no to

    the bus about to pull in at the curb, and hailed a cab.

    The day had begun hot. It was June 25, 1943—full summer, with a real summer haze lying over

    the city, though the season was not yet a week old. He sank back in the taxi as if already in a

    deck chair and told the driver Grand Central. With a racing of the motor, the cab pulled away

    from 116th and the Drive.

    It was a vacation well earned, much needed, long looked-forward-to, and all the more precious

    because it was to be short. Other men in the English Department were to be off till September

    but he had signed up for summer school again, and not entirely because he liked teaching: there

    was a shortage of men during the war and he had volunteered to help out. As the cab swung

    down Riverside Drive in the early damp June morning, with the buildings across the river

    already trembling in waves of heat, the one troubling thought in John Grandin’s mind was that

    he must be back in two weeks.

    The thought did not bother him long; for meanwhile there was to be the holiday with his wife,

    their first together in some time, away from the children, in a seaside place they had never

    visited before. Ethel had left a week earlier to take the children to her parents’ home in Maine

    and was to meet him this afternoon at Woods Hole, where they would board the boat to

    Nantucket—to arrive at Sconset, the hotel folder assured them, in time for dinner. For the

    duration, Dune House could not send a car; the island bus would meet them at the pier.

    “For the duration”—it had a finality, a suggestion of everlastingness, out of all

    proportion to its literal sense; and the worst of it was, no one needed to complete the phrase.

    What it referred to was universally understood—as if, in these changing times, only one thing

    had “duration.”

    It was the second summer of the war, for other countries the fourth (the seventh for still

    others): it lived with one now. Sheltered civilian though he was, he felt it keenly, and was

    increasingly fretted by tiny, irrational, but disturbing obsessions he could not shake, petty

    irritations of which he was ashamed, in view of the realer upheavals abroad. All life was

    changing alarmingly fast, including one’s very vocabulary. A blouse was not a man’s shirt or a

    woman’s waist but the jacket of a uniform; a battle was no longer an engagement between two

    armies met in the field but the overrunning, by land and sea and air, of whole nations, so that

    one spoke of the Battle of France or the Battle of Italy—not, as in the old days, the battle of

    provincial localities such as Soissons or the Marne; and terms like for the duration had

    come to be part of daily speech, so familiar as almost to have lost their original meaning. Added

    to this was the encroachment of the war on the classroom, in the form of more and more

    students in uniform or fewer and fewer boys. John Grandin looked out from under the gaily

    striped awning of the open cab, its scalloped edges flapping noisily in the hot breeze, and

    willfully did not see the line of destroyers idling on the Hudson, the ugly transports and

    freighters riding high in the water, awaiting the portentous cargoes that were to be taken,

    under armed convoy, to secret foreign ports. He saw, but did not think of them. Instead he

    thought of the Nantucket steamer and wondered what it would be like . . . A man with an

    accordion would come round, there would be shoeshine boys, pennants would fly and hats

    would blow away. . . .

    . . . And Ethel would be dressed attractively and sensibly in a fall suit, against the possible chill of

    the ocean breeze, with no flapping taffeta or whipping silk; and later, on the island itself, in a

    linen shirt and skirt, scorning the halters and shorts, the slacks and dungarees, that other

    women affected at vacation resorts. During the trip over, she would speak of the boys or

    question him about the apartment, characteristically avoiding any mention of what would be

    uppermost in her mind: their holiday together.

    The book was crowding his pocket. He pulled it out. Apprehensive that he might leave it on the

    seat and forget it, he kept it in his hand. Instinctively, from old habit, he held the book upside

    down, its cover and title against him, so that no one might see what he was reading when he

    should walk through the station. Why he did this, he could not have said. He would have done

    the same had it been a popular novel, the diary of a war correspondent, or a learned work on

    philosophy or metaphysics.

    The taxi was moving through Columbus Circle. The city air was close and thick, heavy with

    damp. What it needed was an island breeze, Grandin thought: Manhattan was hardly one’s idea

    of an island. The motorman of the old-fashioned trolley that rumbled noisily along beside the

    taxi wore a blue shirt, and his back was black with sweat. Scarcely a man was to be seen in the

    street with a coat on. Several persons had already lined up at the ticket window of a movie.

    Imagine going to the movies so early in the morning, he reflected, or in the daytime at all; but of

    course all they wanted was to get inside, out of the heat, in a place that was air cooled.

    The choice had been either two weeks at this time—the last in June, the first in July—or

    three full weeks later on, between the closing of summer school and the start of the fall

    semester; but after they consulted the calendar, there had really been no choice at all. A full

    moon was due a few days hence; it was this which had decided his wife, and himself as well.

    Had it been a mistake? Because he did not like to be ruled by such things, he thought

    with some distaste of the sentimental notion which had done him out of a longer holiday later.

    But anxious to please, anxious to make her happy (which of course meant his own happiness

    too), he had gladly given in to his wife. Ethel must have a full moon. Like a romantic schoolgirl

    she believed that a vacation was not a vacation without a moon; and though she did not express

    the idea in words, he recognized that her anxiety to be in Nantucket when the moon was full

    implied a compliment to their relationship, a tacit but perhaps wishful declaration that they

    were still lovers.



    - pp. 20-22: He did not mind having to walk the rest of the way. It was, as the driver had said,

    only a step. What he minded was the interruption; particularly the nature of it. It threw him off.

    With other pedestrians, a few of whom now and again left off watching and broke

    through the marching barrier as if they had no time for this sort of thing and must be about

    their business, he stood on the sidewalk and watched the parade. He wanted badly to dart or

    step quickly between the advancing pairs and so be on his way, but he could not bring himself

    to do it.

    It was not a parade in any formal sense. The men were not marching in correct formation along

    the street but rather shuffled or ambled up the sidewalk in a long straggling group, barely

    keeping double file. They were men and boys of many ages. Some were in shirtsleeves, some

    wore sweaters in spite of the heat, a few were well dressed; they carried proper suitcases, or

    rolls of clothing, or paper bags; and it was clear to even the most casual observer that these

    men were on their way to the Induction Center on Lexington Avenue—that for them, in short,

    this was The Day.

    It was a sight so discomforting that John Grandin found himself embarrassed. Nor was he the

    only one. Others in the crowd around him watched the procession with an awkward

    expression which plainly said they would rather not have seen it. There was a strange silence in

    the street as the men passed along. Only the very young, only boys and young girls, greeted the

    draftees with smiles, laughter, or the catchphrases of the hour. The laughter rang hollowly in

    Grandin’s ears. He felt an impulse to plunge through the double column and get on, get away,

    get out of here—but he stood rooted to the sidewalk, touched with a melancholy respect.


    How different this seemed from other wars, other years. He remembered the gaiety of

    embarking soldiers in the past, the excitement and emotion of the frankly adoring crowd, the

    wave of solidarity that went out from everyone, till the cheering throng and the departing

    soldiers themselves were one great loving people, united in a wave of mass affection which for

    the moment was stronger, more enveloping, than any other emotion in life. It was not so here.

    There was a look of sheepishness on the faces of the crowd. An embarrassment and faint

    shame had fallen over the entire street.


    Most touching of all was the appearance of the men themselves. It struck right to his heart, it

    troubled and upset him. They were sheepish too, and silent. They straggled along hangdog and

    silly; they stared at the sidewalk in a ludicrous grin, or straight ahead, unseeingly, with jaw set;

    and occasionally one or two would send a bold defiant glance directly into the eyes of a

    bystander, as if to say, Go ahead, laugh. And it was by no means comforting to think that in a

    very few weeks all this would be different, the men would be changed, they would become

    proud and disciplined and alike, they would fit and belong together so that, in the mass, one

    could scarcely tell them apart, their native individuality, good or bad, lost in the necessary great

    machine of which they were to become each a resigned anonymous cog. John Grandin felt so

    uneasy that he could watch them no longer; and when the final pair of draftees had at last

    straggled by, he broke into a run toward Grand Central as if he barely had time to catch the

    last train on the timetable, the last to anywhere.



    - pp. 22-24: The train down from Boston was hot, noisy, and dirty. Ethel Grandin rode in the

    daycoach, not because there was no Pullman (she hadn’t inquired about that) but because it

    would have seemed extravagant to pay extra fare for a trip of only three hours; she disliked

    anything that suggested ostentation or luxury. Her luggage was piled in the rack above her

    head; one bag remained in the aisle, to the annoyance of passers-by, but that was something she

    could do nothing about. Each time the conductor came through he frowned darkly and seemed

    about to reprove this thoughtless passenger for cluttering up the aisle with her baggage; but

    after one look at the self-contained lady sitting coolly in her seat virtually surrounded by

    servicemen, he changed his mind and went on. In her lap were the sandwiches she would eat

    for lunch, and a detective story called Holy Murder which she tried at intervals to read.

    The thickset private who all but leaned against her shoulder and the two sailors sprawled in the

    seat facing her—one of whom rested his feet on the dingy plush upholstery between her and

    the soldier—eyed her parcel of sandwiches now and then, her book, or, more frequently, her

    legs.

    That the book did not hold her interest was more her husband’s fault than the storyteller’s;

    taking over her thought more and more, he stood between her and attention. She put the book

    aside and watched the passing landscape, but the soldier thought she was looking at him and

    returned the look; so she directed her gaze along the car instead, a little above the heads of the

    two sprawling sailors. One of them, a dark unshaven fellow, was about to fall asleep with his

    cheek against the windowpane and his mouth open; the other was a blond child in no more

    than his middle teens. It was he whose neatly polished shoes continually brushed her skirt—

    purposely or not, she couldn’t make out; and when he caught her eye he gave her a sly,

    insolent, yet boyish smile.


    Alan and Ted would have engaged both sailors in conversation at once, and the soldier as well;

    her husband would have done the same; but she could not bring herself to look squarely at

    these young men, much less converse with them. Like many women, Ethel Grandin loved the

    war, loved the fact that her country was in it, loved servicemen and the uniform; her eyes filled

    up with tears and her breast nearly burst at the sound and sight of martial music and a parade;

    but if a soldier or sailor accosted her on the street—or sparred for an opening to familiarity, as

    this boy seemed to be doing—all thought of the uniform vanished instantly and she could only

    regard him as what he was in actuality: a fresh kid.

    Some women would have laughed, thinking it funny, or cute; others might have been flattered.

    But she was not flattered and she did not think it cute. On the contrary, there was something

    distinctly unpleasant in the idea that he might think she would be interested in him. She stared

    with a fixed stare at the far end of the car, determined to think of other things and thus wipe

    him from her mind.



    - pp. 25-26: From the first he had been the only man who had ever understood her; but did he

    understand her now, or know her feelings at all? She remembered so clearly the first evening

    he had taken her home from a party, and why. It had been an embarrassing evening, with

    several silly people spoiling what might have been good talk. She had no social gift in the sense

    of being able to make conversation about nothing with men and women she didn’t care for or

    know well. Present had been a woman with a flair for dramatics who at one point in the

    evening began to entertain them all with palm reading. She took Ethel’s reluctant palm in her

    own, gazed at it with wide-eyed amaze, and gasped: “Look at that Mount of Venus! Did you

    ever see such a Mount of Venus in your life? I ask you!” Acutely embarrassed, Ethel Cameron

    found herself murmuring: “I’ve been told I have a murderer’s or a suicide’s hand.” The woman

    gazed at her darkly, held her speech for a dramatic moment, and then replied: “Well, it’s not a

    murderer’s hand.”—Of them all, John Grandin had been the only one who understood

    that Ethel had improvised her remark about the Mount of Venus) in an effort to take part, help

    out, give the woman something to go on. It had been silly of her to have suggested such a thing,

    but she had felt called upon to say something. Neither she nor John Grandin was foolish enough

    to attach any importance to the woman’s reckless interpretation, but they were both incensed

    by its stupidity. In a few moments they had left the party together; and an hour later (incredible

    to think of it now, since he had been, till then, such a stranger) they were making love.

    That night he had become the single soul in the world whose destiny (oh far more than

    the children’s) was irrevocably linked with hers.


    - pp. 29-35: Luckily he had not brought his book. It would have been impossible to read here.

    At least half a dozen men were ahead of him, squeezed together on the black settee that ran at

    right angles to the window or on the small leather seat near the door. With the exception of a

    good-looking lad in khaki, they were mostly middle-aged. He found a place to stand, out of the

    path of anyone who might wish to enter the lavatory, and lighted a cigarette.

    Of the men present, the one who stood out most prominently was the youth, and not entirely

    because of the uniform. Rather he was conspicuous because of the concentrated attention and

    admiration of the others. Grandin did not know what branch of service the young man was in,

    and so during a pause in the conversation he put the question into words.

    One of the men looked up sharply. “Can’t you see? He’s a paratrooper!”—and there was a

    silent exchange of surprise that he could have been so ignorant.

    He noticed, then, the patch on the boy’s shoulder. He marveled that they should have known

    to a man. So far as he recalled, he had never before seen that little red-and-white symbol; even

    if he had, he would not have known what it stood for. Army and Navy insignia (so generally

    known, it seemed, to all) he was totally unacquainted with—like the mysterious tables of a

    racing form, who played end for Notre Dame, and batting averages.

    The paratrooper was handsome in a lean-faced way, clean-cut, obviously of good family. He

    spoke readily of himself. After intensive training at a Georgia camp he was on short leave to

    visit his family at their summer home in Nantucket, where he had spent every summer since he

    was a child. Here was by no means the cutthroat young villain with an appetite for violence

    who, one heard nowadays, made the ideal paratrooper. This lad had aristocratic nostrils, fine

    hands, well-kept nails and teeth. He was personable and well bred, and he talked freely and

    well, without diffidence, certain that he was interesting to the older men.

    That he was not reticent was manifestly not his fault. The others pressed such admiring

    attention upon him and plied him with so many questions (calculated, usually, to show the

    knowledge of the questioner) that it would have turned the head of a less disciplined youth.

    Though nothing was known about him beyond the few facts he had himself disclosed, the

    paratrooper was already regarded with some awe as a hero. When details of his training were

    given out, the men exchanged glances and nods among themselves, murmuring audibly to one

    another, “Nice boy,” “Some life,” “Must take nerve,” and again, “Nice boy,” while the young

    man, pleased, pretended not to hear. John Grandin was touched and disturbed to notice how

    intense in the crowded little room was the feeling of admiration, even affection, for this youth

    whom they did not know. It was the uniform, of course, plus the danger; plus the fact that they

    were not young.

    The book he had brought along was lying on the floor by his chair, face down as he had left it.

    He picked it up, lowered the shade a trifle, and made himself comfortable to read.

    He did not know why, of all the volumes in his library, he should have chosen The Collected

    Poems of A. E. Housman
    for his journey. But it was a book he could always read and reread

    again, stay with for as little or as long as he liked, dip into anywhere and find something

    satisfying. So many pages were turned down at the corners and so many lines marked that he

    was distracted, at first, wondering what particular notion or response in the past had made him

    cite a certain passage or verse. Phrases were underscored which puzzled him now; try as he

    might, he could see no reason for most of them. He leafed through the volume, turned back

    the bent corners, and after a while was able to ignore the markings and enjoy himself.

    Enjoyment was hardly the word; he was in for a surprise he would not have believed

    possible in a book so familiar. The theme of the poems he remembered well, yet suddenly it

    seemed as if he had never really paid attention; certainly he had never felt its impact so

    strongly. Reduced to one of its simplest terms, this theme was that there was beauty and a lofty

    irony in the idea of youth stricken in untimely death, particularly on the battlefield; and it was

    sounded over and over with a delicate perfection that had once been breath-taking in its art.

    Verse after witty verse, so satisfying before, now struck him with repulsion. Beneath the grace

    of the most lightly turned stanza lay a cynicism bitter beyond even the poet’s wonderful words:

    morbid, macabre, necrophiliac—polluted with an amorousness, a virtual lust, for the grave. The

    verses smelled of rot; no felicity of phrase could mask the underlying sordid horror. The

    crowning offense, the very climax of the insult, lay in the fact that the theme of dead youth was

    strummed not only with charm but with wit. Epigrams! His intellect reacted with violence, he

    who believed in the freedom of art, without regard to subject matter, without restrictions

    political or otherwise; and he could only come to the shocking conclusion that in wartime such

    a volume should have been suppressed.—He went down again to the smoker.

    There was the same group admiring the handsome communicative paratrooper; but now, to his

    surprise, a large blond soldier in khaki and heavy GI boots sprang up and offered him his seat.

    The courtesy was so unexpected that for a moment John Grandin did not know how to deal

    with it. Of course he declined; he would have felt ridiculous indeed to take the place of a

    serviceman. Besides, the gesture was so patently that of youth to age, a young man’s politeness

    to an elder, that he was by turns amused and embarrassed. In their brief exchange he got the

    impression that the big soldier was probably from one of the daycoaches, come up to see what

    a Pullman was like, and not enjoying it much; he was uneasy and awkward, and seemed to sense

    keenly his anomalous position. Grandin further noted that the fellow had blue eyes, tawny

    curling hair bleached on top as if by long exposure to the sun, a well-tanned face; and he was,

    by any standards, enormous.

    One of the men left and he found a seat by the window, next to the soldier. He felt the

    pressure of the thick shoulder against his own; he did not like sitting that close to other men,

    especially strangers, but there was no room to pull away. The paratrooper, primed by his

    admirers held forth. The soldier listened with the others; he followed the paratrooper’s words

    with aloof but polite attention, his hands clasped tight over a wide knee, his elbows rigid at his

    sides, as if trying to take up as little room as possible. John Grandin felt his tension and he

    wanted to say: Relax, soldier; so long as you’re in uniform, you’re more than all right with this

    crowd.

    There could hardly have been a greater contrast between the awkward private and the

    confident, rather sophisticated paratrooper. The difference was so marked that the latter drew

    all the admiration, and the men paid small attention to the uncomfortable fellow too big for his

    clothes who sat hunched up on the settee. Whatever exchange of conversation there may have

    been between him and the others, or between the two soldiers, must have proved

    unsatisfactory, for the paratrooper dominated the little room as before, as if he were the only

    uniform present. His cigarette finished, Grandin dropped it into the cuspidor and went out; and

    as he left, the blond private flashed him a painfully polite and eager smile.

    The train was moving slowly through a fashionable parklike community and from the window

    he saw many pairs of white figures leaping about a series of tennis courts which, unless one

    looked sharply and concentrated on a certain court and quartet of players, might have been

    taken for a Manhattan playground alive with tenement children. Tennis balls zigzagged across his

    vision, blurred by the moving train till they resembled streamers of white tape; and John

    Grandin was reminded of the continuous tennis match outside his classroom which had had

    such a distracting effect on him all that spring. . . .

    On one of the first warm days of April he had become aware of the denk-dunk of tennis

    balls being batted back and forth beneath the room where he lectured. It was a pleasant sound;

    far from interrupting him, it brought a rather poetic accompaniment to his talk which was quite

    in keeping with the warm sunshine streaming in and the first sensual stirrings of summer which

    could be felt on the air. Each morning he meant to go to the window and look out at the

    players when class was dismissed; but for several days, in the intervals of changing classes, he

    forgot to do so. Then one morning about a month ago he stepped to the window. Twelve

    young men were playing on the three courts below; they wore white tennis shoes, thick white

    socks, and white shorts, nothing more; their shoulders were already bright pink with the

    beginnings of their summer tan. Involuntarily he moved a step back into the dark of the room

    and stood erect, looking obliquely down through the window at the thrusting lunging arms, the

    play of muscle across the lean backs, and the almost formless legs that seemed to have been

    fashioned cleanly and sparely, like pistons or driving rods, for action only; and he surprised in

    himself a stern disapproval. In his day, even on a campus that was not coeducational, shorts—or

    at least shorts only—had not been allowed. His irritation did not spring from priggishness. On

    the contrary, it arose from a full awareness of the Greeklike charm of the scene below: it was a

    Puritan disapproval because the sight was much too attractive, too pleasant to look at, there

    was work to be done, and this was no time for play. The vivid scene below started up a swarm

    of sensual images in his mind, images of youth, exercise, the outdoors which he had ignored too

    long, and impatience for summer to come. In short, it distracted him. Hundreds walked by the

    courts and gave no more than a passing glance at the players; but for the single passer-by who

    might be too absorbed by the spectacle—or for the one who, standing at his classroom

    window, was thrown off from his work—the costume was regrettable. Depressed, he went

    back to his desk in the semi-dark room to await the next students; and for days, thereafter, the

    denk-dunk-denk of tennis ball and racket continued to provide a kind of soft antiphonal

    background to his lectures. He wondered if the students were aware that he kept to his theme

    with difficulty; and for the remainder of the term he did not once go to the window to look

    down again at the players. . . .


    - pp. 39-41: In the chair behind him, someone was talking about swing. “You ought to study the

    new forms,” the voice said, “you really ought. Why, Lionel Hampton’s recording of [I]Central

    Avenue Breakdown[/] is as complicated and intricate as anything in Back, père or fils.

    People don’t realize!” John Grandin picked up his copy of Life magazine.

    It fell open to the Picture-of-the-Week, the full-page photograph of the four dead marines, and

    this time he looked at it carefully and thoughtfully. The bodies lay face down on the beach, very

    near to the water’s edge, at rest at last in the sand that was so soon to pack them in. The beach

    was strewn with the broken fronds of palm trees, and in the background could be seen the

    bare stalks of the tree themselves, pitifully ragged and ravaged. A few feet beyond the inert

    bodies, the small last wash of the breakers slid nearer and nearer and spread itself in the sand.

    The palpable stillness of the scene, its unutterable loneliness, shrieked of the fury that had raged

    across the beach a short time before. But the fury was over, now, and all that had remained

    was the cameraman. Graphically, beyond the power of any words, the solitariness of death was

    brought home with a peculiar, a melancholy beauty—the collective dying that had become four

    lonely deaths, infinitely moving because each marine was now unaware of the photographer, of

    the beachhead won or lost, of the waves sliding close by, of each other, and of the unknown

    spectator, unmoved or unstrung, who regarded them from the comfort of a parlor-car chair.

    He closed the magazine and picked up his book.

    Suddenly he was ashamed of his reaction against the poems and the poet, ashamed that it could

    have been so violent; it had gone against every tenet of his background and taste. Who knew

    better than he that the theme of death-in-youth was more “suitable” to poetry and had always

    been more attractive to poets than any other theme in human experience; and while the heart

    was wrung, the aesthetic sense was exalted and satisfied. Let the artist make epigrams, even, if

    he chose, so long as the result was beautiful like its subject . . . Here dead lie we because we

    did not choose To live and shame the land from which we sprung. Life, to be sure, is nothing

    much to lose; But young men think it is, and we were young
    . . . For centuries poets had

    been half in love with easeful Death; and the fact that the mused rime was well turned or the

    phrase felicitous by no means denied, but enhanced rather, the ironic or tragic emotion of the

    artist. Even so rugged a poet as his beloved Walt Whitman, who scorned the dandified

    decadence he had been complaining of, had celebrated the beauty of death in many a challenging

    manly chant . . . And was it Bach père or Bach fils, he asked himself with a smile, who had

    composed Come, Sweet Death?—His spirits lifted; he had, for the time being, recovered.


    - pp. 45-47: He pressed deeper into the comfort of his chair, then relaxed his every limb and

    muscle in the effort to induce sleep. Drowsy, he was about to drop off, but through half closed

    eyes he saw the familiar figure of the big blond private who had offered him his seat in the

    smoker appear at the end of the car and start coming his way.

    . . . Odd that he should have thought of the fellow as familiar; he had seen him only once

    before, and then for only a few moments. Now he realized he had not noticed, or for that

    matter missed, the presence of the soldier during his last few visits to the smoker. Perhaps he

    had been there, perhaps he had not. But in encountering him again, he experienced a

    recognition, a comfortable sense of friendliness toward him. It may have been the young man’s

    awkwardness, his appearance of being out of place, which had aroused his unconscious

    sympathy. He watched the fellow moving clumsily along the aisle, his great shoulders slightly

    raised, his arms outthrust to catch his balance as the car moved and swayed around a curve.

    The face looked typically American, the very personification of the American boy—the

    contemporary hero; so much so that he ceased almost to be an individual: he was the epitome

    of a type.

    As he reached Grandin’s chair, the towering figure gave a lunge and the hand caught hold of the

    luggage rack above Grandin’s head just in time to prevent his crashing against the windows.

    From this precarious position he looked down and smiled. John Grandin could not, for the

    moment, smile back; he was too struck by what was surely the most utterly winning smile he

    had ever seen in his life. When he recovered, the soldier had already gone on.

    He sat up, awake now. After a moment he picked up the magazine and turned again to the

    Picture-of-the-Week.

    Violence in a tropical setting was a commonplace, nowadays, so that an island beach, far from

    being the romantic image that men longed to escape to, had become a symbol of death.

    Characteristically he speculated on what these boys had been through or left behind, boys who

    could not have dreamed in the safety of their beds in their parents’ homes that they would end

    up in this outlandish way, riddled with bullets on a beach they never heard of — young men

    who had so much to give to love and who would never make love again. That marine in the

    foreground hugging the earth with an almost amorous concentration, the booted feet towed in

    and the left arm cushioning the cheek for his long assignation—he would like to have been

    there with him, to lug the death-heavy fellow farther up the sand out of reach of the creeping

    tide, there to cover him over with a blanket, perhaps, and to stay with him through the night.

    . . . But what need had he of blanket or vigil? Five minutes after the picture was taken, no

    doubt, the medical corps had hauled away the body, along with dozens of others, and the

    photographer had sent off the film to his paper, wondering whether this one would turn out to

    be the lucky shot out of hundreds of similar shots which he had been sending home since the

    campaign began. He closed the magazine and put it away for good; and as he did so, he was

    aware of a desire to turn back to the picture again and again.




    Last edited by HERO; 04-14-2014 at 11:50 PM.

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