“What are you two old buzzards up to?” snarled the young man. “Sticking your noses into young people’s affairs!”

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, May 26, 1934.

“Ho, hum,” said Jimmie Frise, tossing a wedding invitation on to his drawing board. “That makes five wedding presents I’ve got to buy next month.”

“That reminds me,” I said. “I’ve got three.”

“A fellow really ought to save up for June,” went on Jim, “the way he does for Christmas.”

“I suppose June is the nicest month to get married in,” I mused. “Nice weather for the honeymoon. Nice weather to set up house.”

“No coal bills,” added Jim. “No ashes to take out. No nasty getting out of bed in the frosty February mornings. In June, everything not only looks rosy. Everything is rosy. It is the logical month to get married.

“I wonder what is the favorite month for proposals?” I inquired. “In what month of the year are all these June weddings arranged?”

“I’d say January,” said Jim.

“I’d say August,” said I.

“In January,” argued Jimmie, “parties are at their height. Girls are at the peak of their beauty. They got their new dresses in November. But by January, they have got over the newness of their dresses and are willing to sit out the dances. See?”

“But August is so languid,” I demurred.

“No,” said Jim. “In January, a girl has got over taking care of her party dress and she begins to act naturally. She dances with grace and joy, not stiffly and carefully, the way she does in December with her new frock and her new shoes. Her shoes, as you might say, are broken in by January. So, in January, she begins to let herself go. She dances gaily. Think of all the young people coming home from dances at three o’clock in the morning in January. The biting cold of February is not yet here to chill the young couple. They come home, as I say, through the bright mystic night of January. No. I maintain that perhaps sixty per cent. of June weddings are arranged about the fifteenth of January, either in the car driving home from the dance. Or in the front porch.”

“There aren’t any more front porches,” I reminded Jim. “Now let me sing the praises of August. Think of it. The August moon. The languid soft August air. The purple night. Girl and boy in a canoe. No matter how ill-fitting the boy’s clothes may be in January, how sadly they remind the girl of the poor job the boy has, in August he is radiant in white flannels and blue blazer. Even a boy getting $18 a week, working temporarily for his uncle, looks romantic in a blue blazer and white flannels in August.”

Is Love-Making Different Now1?

“You are very mercenary about love,” said Jim. “You make out girls to be awfully hard-boiled.”

“Girls are hard-boiled,” I assured him. “Back in the days when the only means a girl had of escaping from home was by marrying, there was lots of room for romance, free and untrammelled. But nowadays, when a girl can get out of housework by taking a job as an office clerk, she can afford to use her head in picking her man.”

“So what has that to do with August?” asked Jim.

“In August,” I said, “everything in nature conspires to confuse a girl. Boys can more easily disguise their true condition in August than any other month. In fact, all they need is a bathing suit. And then, old Mother Nature turns on the languid air and the torrid moon to exert their ancient forces upon the girls.”

“What do we know about love?” cried Jimmie. “We did our courting back in the horse and buggy days!”

“It is the same now,” I said. “Love-making to-day is just the same as it was when the Pyramids were being built.”

“I doubt it,” said Jim. “If there was any way we could find out, it would be very interesting.”

“Well, where do young people go to make love?” I asked. “We could go there and observe them.”

“Where did they used to make love?” demanded Jim. “You say nothing has changed.”

They used to make love anywhere,” I admitted. “In street cars, walking down the street, sitting on front steps, anywhere.”

“Where did you make love?” asked Jimmie.

“On a balcony,” I said, rather shyly.

“Where?” asked Jim.

“The old house is torn down,” I said. “Where did you?”

“In a dinghy,” said Jim. “It’s sunk now.”

“We could go down to Sunnyside,” I said. “There are thousands of young people down there. We could observe them. And if we see a typical young couple, obviously in love, we could sort of detach them from the mob and follow them about, discreetly, you know.”

“A very good idea,” said Jimmie.

It was a balmy May evening. The world was filled with the sense of arrival, the trees were heavy with their first soft leaves, the robins sang in the throaty voice that means the nest is jewelled with blue, the children’s voices were music far off, the cars drove more slowly along the block, it was as if all the world were a little hushed and conscious that God must be somewhere near to behold this masterpiece of an evening.

Jim drove me down to Sunnyside and we parked and joined the strolling throng. It was still early enough for large numbers of babies and small children to be assuming possession of the place, and all the young mothers were beautiful in that slightly damp and flustered fashion which makes them more lovely than they know. It was a little early for Youth to be abroad, so Jimmie and I sat on a bench alongside an elderly couple sharing a bag of peanuts, and we watched the passing show.

Youths Mystical Flowering

“Some people,” said Jimmie, “are so beautiful they hurt just to see them. Others are so perfectly homely, you wonder who on earth had the nerve to give them birth.”

“The homely ones,” I remarked, “don’t know they are homely.”

“But how,” asked Jimmie, “could the beautiful ones not know they are lovely, brushed all day long with a thousand soft glances!”

So we sat, while the gathering throng surged past us, and the traffic behind us grew thicker and more short-tempered, and blue night fell slowly over the cool shining lake.

Then, as if some invisible Piper had sounded his call, Youth appeared. Like an orchestra that played only with horns and clarinets and drums, suddenly the strings, the violins, the violas, the cellos, started to sing in that moving picture before us. Sing and throb, divine, upreaching. Youth suddenly diffused itself amidst the throng, the tune changed, the tone and pitch altered, and we beheld, from our bench, the mystical flowering of human kind.

“Jimmie,” I said, huskily, because the lake is cool at nightfall, “they are the whole meaning of life.”

Old Jim, being an artist, said nothing but sat quite still.

Threes and fours of girls, pressing forward into the evening arm in arm; fives and sixes of boys, hands in pockets, leaning back, brave and indifferent.

“Notice, Jimmie,” I said, “how timid the boys are, they are in sixes and sevens, but the girls are in twos and three!”

Pairs went by and double pairs, teeth flashing, eyes glowing. But none suggested to us two old vultures sitting on the bench that we might follow them and discover how changed or changeless are the years.

Music, traffic, the soft thunder of the throng filled the night. Presently all the threes, and fours of girls were mingled with the sixes and sevens of boys. And Jim and I rose from our bench and fell in step with the night.

“You na-asty man!” and “Don’t ever DO that!” seemed to be the theme of the conversation of all mankind under thirty. Yells and giggles from both girls and boys seemed to be the battle cry.

“When I was young.” I hollered into Jim’s ear, “we could make love quietly!”

“A distant train whistle,” said Jimmie, “was about the only thing to disturb us in the quiet.”

In and out of the multitudes we wove our way, looking for the perfect, the ideal, the idyllic couple.

Then we saw them. The boy, tall and slim and solemn. The girl, winsome but sturdy and free-gaited, but with that same intent, grave expression.

“That’s ’em,” we hissed and cut in behind them.

Gravely they stalked ahead of us, looking in at the merry-go-rounds and the games, the rides and the booths. What little they had to say to each other, they said quietly and low. They seemed to be a prince and a princess out to see how the common people enjoyed themselves.

Wherever they paused, we paused. We stood as near them as our Victorian politeness allowed. We tried our best to eavesdrop on their conversation, but they spoke in murmurs.

“That’s it,” I whispered to Jimmie. “That’s the way we used to be! Just walking along, with not much to say. Just murmuring.”

“Yes,” whispered Jim. “That was it.”

With That Faraway Look

They stood a long time at the bowling alley, but they were looking, not at the bowlers, but at the heaps of red and yellow roses which were the prizes.

They took hands after that, just their fingers entwined, and walked rather shyly, not looking much at anything, but with roses in their hearts.

“You see, Jim?” I muttered. Jim bending down to hear me. “Even in all this racket and riot and confusion, it is just the same as it was in the Garden of Eden!”

They paused. We paused.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to look, and there, with blazing eyes, stood a quite young man, his fist clenched.

“What are you two old buzzards up to?” he snarled. He had a girl with him and she was standing back frightened.

“Where, how, what, who?” I stuttered.

“Bill,” called this young man. And the young fellow we had been following, leaped towards us, all dark and ready.

“Bill, these two old alligators have been following you and Marilyn for the last ten minutes,” shouted the blazing-eyed young man. A crowd was assembling. “Jill and I have been walking right behind you. At the rifle range, these two elderly hornbills swung in between us, and we have been watching them. They have been right close behind you trying to overhear what you said…. What say if I pop them on the snoot?”

“Er, ah, oh, um,” said Jim and I, harmonizing it.

“What’s the idea?” asked the tall young boy we had been following. “What’s the idea?”

“Why,” I stuttered, “we thought you were our friend, Bill Anderson’s, boy. An old school friend. We were just wondering if you were his boy. You look like him.”

“Does he sound like him?” asked the other lad, sarcastically. “Sticking your old noses into young people’s affairs!”

“Let’s throw them in the lake,” suggested a voice from the crowd. I looked at the crowd around us. It was all Youth.

“Let’s drown ’em,” agreed others.

Jim took my arm and thrust me through the mob.

We started slow and gained speed. We lost any pursuers about the place they run those little motor cars around and around. We kept right on until we found our own automobile and got into it.

“After a certain age,” said Jim, “it is not wise to evince too much interest in love. Even in other people’s love. Even in abstract love.”

“They were all youth,” I said. “They might very well have thrown us in the lake.”

“Young people do not like to think that old weasels like us are even interested in love,” said Jim. “It seems to them somehow ridiculous. It offends them.”

“Can’t we even sit on benches and watch them pass?” I asked.

“We mustn’t appear interested,” said Jim. “We should just sit and with a faraway look, as if we had forgotten something.”

“Forgotten everything, you mean,” I said.

“As a matter of fact,” said Jimmie, putting her in low and steering out into a gap in the long grinding procession of cars, “it is nearly everything, isn’t it?”

So we went home and pretended to be very cranky helping our various children with their home work.

Editor’s Note:

  1. It must be remembered that at this time, love making referred to courtship or wooing. ↩︎