FICTION

The Anatomy of Love

ARTHUR STRINGER September 1 1916
FICTION

The Anatomy of Love

ARTHUR STRINGER September 1 1916

The Anatomy of Love

ARTHUR STRINGER

CHAPTER IX—Continued.

THAT was the third time, he told himself bitterly, that the long arm of untimely coincidence had reached out and wrecked his moment of happiness. He hated Anne, and Amboro and the whole wide world, he told himself bitterly, as he clambered further up the sloping bank.

“But where’s Dickie?” Sybil was demanding.

“He’s seeing about the trunks,” answered Anne, coming closer to the river-bank. “He can only 9tay for three days.” “Pshaw,” ejaculated Sybil.

The Professor listened to their voices as to the voices of another world. He felt entombed and forgotten. Even Anne was ignoring him. With a sudden little gasp of indignation, he reached up and tore his ridiculous oak-leaf garland from his head, and flung it into the river.

Then he turned from one woman to the other, angrily. It was Anne who spoke first.

“You’ll take your death of cold in those wet things !” she said, in her even voice, as she gazed over at him with her sober grey eyes.

He rose to his feet, with dignity. Sybil choked back the laugh that was creeping up to her lips. “It is too bad!” she murmured, instead, and made ineffectual little dabs at his ooze-covered flannels with her tiny mockery of a handkerchief.

He looked down at the scene of the accident in silence. If he had only fallen into deep water there might have been something to redeem the ridiculousness of it all, something sinister in his fierce battle for life. As it was, even Anne herself, could not keep back a momentary

“I—I—hate you worse than—cats!” at last ejaculated the man of science, irascibly, unreasonably, as he turned solemnly back to the boat.

Across that stretch of open water the two women stood, looking at each other, silently, pregnantly, thoughtfully, as he rowed away.

CHAPTER X.

THE TANGLE IN THE SKEIN.

JOHN HERRIN MACRAVEN did not take cold, as he had feared. This deliverance was due. in all likelihood, to the fiery and indignant speed with which he had rowed home.

If the stiffness in his left knee troubled him a little more than usual, the next morning, he gave scant thought to that ailment of the flesh, for the discomfort that then faced him was one of the mind. It was, indeed, a discomfort that grew

more poignant and perplexing the more he brooded upon it. For the young Professor of Anthropology was sadly, if suddenly, exercised over the welfare of Sybil.

This difficulty was due primarily to the presence of the young man known as Dickie. In that seemingly innocent and engaging youth Macraven recognized a menace to the old-time Arcadian simplicity of their farm life.

He had always been a drone in the serious hive of industry, had young Sewell. He had been acknowledged as “cheeky.” He was not only foppish and vain-glorious, given over to the butterflyways of wantoning adolescence, but he was, as well, a circuitous and sophisticated disciple of sentimental relationships between the sexes. He was quite as bad as young Waggles himself.

All this the Professor knew, as well as he knew he had a nose on his face, for the simple reason that he had had cause to follow Richard Ford Sewell’s career as an undergraduate at Amboro. On more than one occasion which he could all too easily remember, he had come into even less impersonal contact with that young gentleman. And it was the memory of these collisions of personality which so disconcerted the guardian of the young and innocent Sybil.

For John Herrin Macraven could distinctly recall the occasion when he had sacrificed his own personal feelings that he might make a close and comprehensive study of young Sewell in at least two of his undergraduate affairs of the heart. That had been in the young Professor’s earlier days of psychologic investigation, when his passion for the accumulation of scientific data for and against his newfledged theories of courtship, as set forth in the first and second volume of his “Anatomy of Love” had amounted to almost an obsession. Indeed, he remembered with a sigh, he had even aided and abetted this same young Sewell in his desperate and deplorable affair with old Ramsdell’s niece from New Haven. He had bidden them slyly to his room, he had served tea for them, he had even permitted them to hide notes to each other in his library books—all so that he might observe at first hand the divers stigmata of what he had been pleased to term “adolescent erotomania.”

But he found it extremely difficult to synthetize his deductions. The girl from New Haven was a remarkably highspirited young woman and, after three days of timid-eyed docility, the hours of those strange young lovers were given over to quarrels and recriminations, to tears and jealousies and disputes, to sulkings and silences — until the man of science, finding his tender theories strip-

ped and shivering in the blasts of adverse evidence, disgustedly decided that the specimens before him were marked variations from the type, and as disgustedly closed and locked his doors to their perplexed but still quarreling young faces.

J> UT he had still kept an observing and U scientific eye on young Sewell, and when that conscienceless and war-scarred gallant of Amboro directed his attentions towards the neutral-tinted and placid and altogether normal Synthia Westover, the seventh daughter of the Head of the Divinity School, the young Professor rubbed his hands together with satisfaction and awaited the progress of events with impatience. But Synthia Westover, apparently, was as shy as an unmated fawn, and dog their footsteps as he dare, watch them as closely and covertly as he could, not one jot of new information made its way into his waiting notebook. Yet all the while he felt that a busy and moving drama was taking place, a tantalizingly interesting and valuable play of primitive and elemental emotionalism—but always behind some obstructing veil that screenéd him off as completely as would the fallen curtain of a theatre. In sheer desperation he had turned on Sewell one day, while “rigging” him for an exceptionally weak paper in Biology, with the somewhat startling interrogation :

“I say, Sewell, are you in love?”

Sewell fell back,, aghast, even as Waggles had done, and temporized by saying, “Sir?” as though he had not heard.

“You’ll greatly oblige me by telling me if you’re in love with Synthia Westover.”

“Oh, no, sir—that Í9—er—yes, sir—I mean—of—of course not, sir!” answered the amazed youth.

“That’s too bad !” the Professor had replied, with a sigh, wondering when and where and how he would ever secure hi» first-hand data to refute Ribot’s obviously erroneous deductions on “The Affective Emotions.” And. although the young and frivolous Richard Ford Sewell continued

to essay advances to the engaging young ladies of Amboro, he made it a point always to do so absolutely beyond the line of vision of a certain interfering and altogether over-zealous psychologist. So with the advent of this artful youth to the Shotwell homestead, there was a feeling that the old idyllic order of things could no longer continue.

TN fact, it was with a disturbing sense of disappointment, hard to fight down, that Macraven learned on arising the next morning that the three younger people had been out since six, riding crosscountry. By the time he had finished his late and solitary breakfast the riders were back and, by the time he had reached the verandah, Sybil and Anne were engaged in an impromptu steeple-chase, vying with each other in making their ponies jump a high-barred wooden bench on the East lawn. Dickie Sewell, who was acting as judge, soon grew tired of his silent and passive role.

“I say, Sybil,” Macraven heard him half-seriously, half-tauntingly call across the lawn, “hadn’t you better be skipping in and finishing up that poetry of yours?” “Oh, mush!” answered Sybil, with her hair streaming, as her pony took the bench-back with a click of his forefeet on the wooden bar. “What’s the use of poetry when there’s a man around!”

And she had the audacity, even before Anne, to hlow a light and artless kiss from the palm of her hand to Master Richard Sewell.

TT was some time before Anne had changed, and once more appeared before Macraven in an Irish linen waist and a white duck skirt.

“I didn’t let them wake you,” she said. “For I knew you’d rather get two hours of good sleep, instead of risking your neck over rail fences.”

She was quite mistaken in this; but, instead of putting her right, he motioned her in silence into the library.

“What now, 0 King of Knowledge?” she asked, with a school-girl curtsey before him.

But something in the solemnity of his face, as she confronted him in the sober half-lights of the great crimson-curtained room, startled her.

“What has happened?” she demanded.

Macraven, pacing the carpet, came to a

“How well do you know young Sewell?” he asked.

“Why, I’ve known Dickie for years,” she answered, puzzled.

“Then will you tell me this, is he an honorable man?”

Anne laughed.

“I’ve never thought of Dickie as a man," she replied. She was still studying her companion with perplexed eyes. “Why, what is it?"

“It’s this—should Sewell and Sybil be allowed together?”

Anne sat down, a little relieved.

“Why not?” she said.

“That is not an answer,” he insisted.

“Dickie is a nice boy,” she murmured. “Of course, he’s a little young and frivolous from—from our standpoint. He may still be a little dandified, and think more about his clothes and his neckties than about his career. But I think he’s honorable, and honest, too. Why, you thought the same yourself, when you used to drag him and Synthia Westover in for tea so often. I remember you even gave a tennis party in the quad, for him and that New Haven girl!”

The . Professor of Anthropology was glad that fate had made it impossible for him to wear anything but his customary suit of black that morning. He saw that there was a serious duty confronting him.

“That is quite a different matter,” he declared, with some heat. “I mean that Sybil is quite a different girl. She is so young and alone in the world. She is so— so impressionable, and impulsive, and ingenuous and artless!”

“Is she so ingenuous, and artless?” asked Anne.

Macraven studied Anne’s face with unalleviated solemnity. He was a little disappointed in Anne, at such a question.

“Can’t you see what a child she is—a mere bundle of wayward whims and impulses and fancies!” he went on, however. “She’s as innocent and unsophisticated as a flower!”

“Of course!” admitted Anne, folding her hands.

“And it seems to me that it‘s our duty to protect her from the dangers of a life she can’t know anything about. We’re older and wiser than she is”—Anne was smiling down at the toes of her tiny can-

vas shoes—“and we obviously would be held responsible for any foolish ideas she might get into her head, any romantic notions about—about-”

“About Dickie,” prompted Anne. “Precisely!” And the Professor started pacing the carpet once more. When he spoke again he was facing the window.

“Is Sybil in love with this young man?” “They’re out on the sheep pasture gathering puff-balls now!” admitted Anne, casually, and quite irrelevantly.

SOMETHING that was very much like a stab of sudden pain shot through the man at the window. But there was no place for the roses of regret on the hard and narrow path of duty which he saw before him.

“Are they in love?” he reiterated.

“Why come to me?” asked Anne, with just a touch of mockery in her voice, “why come to me, when you’re an authority on such things?”

“Then you refuse to help me?” demanded the other, a little indignantly.

He rather prided himself that he knew far too well the evidences and instincts of any such affair of the heart to be resisted in his deductions and his final generaliza-

“It is rather solemn, isn’t it!” admitted Anne. “But, after all, what can we do?”

“What can we do? We can at least keep them apart, keep the child out of harm’s way, until we know just what the situation is!”

“Love laughs at locksmiths!” murmured Anne.

“Duty smiles at platitudes!” retorted the Professor.

“We might incarcerate Dickie in the corn-crib, and poke his meals in to him through the cracks!” suggested Anne.

“I fail to see the humor in this situation,” said the man of Science, wheeling angrily on her. “It is not a time for joking! I repeat that something must be done, if what I suspect is true. All I now ask for is a suspension of activities, a separation of the two, until I can complete my—my observations. That, at least, is reasonable.”

“Did you bring your microscopes up with you?” asked Anne, but so quietly that it did not reach the Professor. Being

wise in her generation, she relented and did not repeat the question.

“Can’t yon suggest anything?” asked Macraven more humbly.

Anne sat wrapped in thought. Just what she was thinking, however, she did not divulge. At last she looked up.

“Dickie has to go for the trunks this afternoon — that will take hours and hours. Let me go with Dickie!”

“And Sybil?”

“Sybil will be left here, with you, where she’ll be safe. Perhaps you’ll be able to reason her out of it. I can imagine of course just how you must feel about it all. Sybil is warm-blooded and impulsive and unconventional—and she’s better with you, any way!”

“But—er—isn’t this rather hard on you, that long drive through the heat?”

“Not a bit—I’ll enjoy every moment of it. And Dickie is really good company, you know—in his lucid intervals!”

He looked at Anne, with more conscious and critical eyes. He started to speak, but on second thoughts decided to remain silent.

“You won’t be too hard on Sybil?” pleaded Anne, humbly, as she shook out her skirts and turned to go.

He always nursed a vague distrust of Anne in her moments of undue meekness. So he remained silent, and merely bowed.

“Then I’m going out to meet the young folks!” she said, from the door. And as Macraven flung open the library window he could hear the sound of their merry laughter, the cry of their light and careless voices, across the many-colored garden and the green spaces of lawn.

He stood listening, for a moment or two, and then he closed the window again, with just the ghost of a sigh.

CHAPTER XI.

THE WAND OF TITANIA.

AIACRAVEN was not altogether satisfled with the outcome of his reconnaissance with Anne. He felt sure that no word had passed between the two women—Anne was too honest for that!—yel he felt equally sure that Sybil had some inkling of that conspiracy of separation which had been set on foot. And the more he thought of it the more heartily he wished himself out of the entire affair.

Yet if Sybil suspected anything she kept those suspicions firmly locked in her own ebullient young breast. She even confessed to Macraven as they returned to the luncheon table, after waving a merry good-bye to Anne and Richard, that it was nice being alone again. Then she made him sit in Dickie’s place opposite her own, and peel a pear for her.

This intrusion of the personal note made the young Professor’s task a hard one. It would seem like cannonading a canary, he felt, to say anything to her in her present light and artless mood. He would wait until some interval of sobriety, some moment of seriousness, stole over her, and then talk to her as he knew she must be talked to. So he peeled a second pear for her, while she leaned over the table and wiped the juice from his fingers with her own table napkin.

“I’ve a scheme,” she said at last, push-

ing back her plate, with her rounded chin on her locked fingers and her elbows on the table. “We have all the rest of the day to ourselves, haven’t we?”

The young Professor confessed, not without a sense of vague satisfaction, that they had.

“And it’s going to be hot to-night, and there’s going to be a full moon !”

That, also, he could not deny.

“Well, since we’ve been left in charge, we’re going to have a holiday—we’re going to have supper together, under the Wishing Oak, at nine o’clock to-night!” “And—er—no dinner?” queried the Professor, with his physiologist’s deeprooted aversion to irregularity of meals.

“Not a bite!” declared Sybil. “For I want you to be ravenous. You can have tongue sandwiches and plum jam for afternoon tea, at four, but not another bite until we get to the Wishing Oak. I’m going to have this supper of mine a feast for the fairies. Every atom of it has to taste like nectar and ambrosia!”

She was sitting opposite him, in silence, studying his face.

“But won’t Anne think it rather odd— without her?” demurred the guardian of youth, looking up from his plate, and meeting Sybil’s steady and unwavering

“I told Anne to have supper in the village, with Dickie, and while they’re having their fun, we can have ours!” Macraven wondered, a little disturbed, and for reasons he could not fathom, if, after all, that excursion into town would be fun for Anne. And for the rest of the afternoon, while Sybil had Hannah busy in the kitchen and Terence carrying mysterious bundles back and forth across the fields to the Wishing Oak, the young Professor loitered about, somewhat ill-atease and indeterminately guilty of conscience, wondering just when and where would come the opportunity for his serious talk with this restless child of im-

TT was late in the gathering twilight be-*■ fore Sybil spread her mysterious banquet on the wide old bench that stood under the Wishing Oak. Here and there, through a tangle of leafage, could be seen an occasional glimmer of the river, tranquil and silver in the afterglow. The night was warm, and there was no wind. Every now and then, across the sultry silence, crdpt the plaintive cry of a whippoorwill. The entire river valley was jewelled and brightened with drifting fireflies. A thin and almost imperceptible odor of wild-flowers surrounded them. The musky fragrance of dew-drenched grass drifted in to them from the meadow on the south. Two dim Chinese lanterns swayed and glowed among the dark boughs above their heads.

A sense of isolation from realities, of detachment from earthly worries and duties, stole over the young Professor, as he helped Sybil unpack the hampers and spread the snow-white cloth, and drape and shroud the rough bench with leaves and blossoms until it looked like a bower.

Then the white-gowned girl, fluttering back and forth through the dusk, set out pyramids of strawberries, on crinkled platters of lettuce leaves, and a little

gourd filled with golden butter, and the whitest of home-made bread, and candied fruits, and a sealer of clotted and yellow cream, and brandied peaches in a crystal glass, and strange salads of meat and fowl, and little round cakes crowned with cream-paste, and a flask of the home-made wine that was as red and rich as burgundy, and a comb of honey, and a tightly packed freezer of ice cream, with a silver alcohol-lamp for the coffee at the end.

John Herrin Macraven’s thoughts, as he looked down at that strange repast, went back to some of his hurried and frugal meals at Amboro, bolted down while his eyes travelled across the pages of a book propped against his sugar-bowl. He even made a second and more careful inspection of their rustic table, and found himself wondering why it was he*could be so infected with Sybil’s light and careless enthusiasm for things of the moment. Then he remembered that it was six long hours since afternoon tea. And still again he looked at the preparing banquet, with an involuntary sigh. The girl had not erred in her judgment; he was, indeed, ravenous.

“This is rather jolly, isn’t it?” he ventured, sniffing at one of the bowls of salad.

She caught up a wand and waved him imperiously back.

“How could you!” she cried. “Not a bite, sir, until the incantation is whispered!”

L_T E backed away, reluctantly, and

* laughed good-naturally at the golden nonsense she was reciting, as she swayed her white arms over the table, glimmering in the rising moonlight. He had only to look at her and there remained no incongruity in the scene—she was translating the clatter of dishes into moonlight and whispers. He could even persuade himself, now, that all the elves and fairies of the forest were in attendance upon them.

“How Anne would enjoy this!” he remarked inappositely, as he made away with his fifth caviar sandwich.

A shadow crossed Sybil’s happy face; she gazed at him with wide and contemplative eyes.

“How Dickie would love it!” she echoed, feelingly.

The Professor of Anthropology emitted something that was dangerously akin to a snort of disdain.

“Wouldn’t Anne be afraid of neuralgia?” asked Sybil, sweetly, on hearing that snort.

Macraven jocosely asked Sybil if she had ever noticed that young Sewell had a mouth strangely like the Eurypharyngida —for with man, even as with the lower animals, appetite appeased is accompanied by divers frolicsome tendencies.

“Your knee hasn’t been troubling you at all to-night, has it?” Sybil had the goodness to ask, as she uncovered the icecream freezer.

The young Professor sat up, quite sober again. But he had only to look into her serious and wistful eyes to read that there had been no slightest trace of malice in her interrogation. She leaned back, looking at him, idly tearing roses to pieces,

dropping the petals into the basket at her side.

Then, with a laugh, she flung off her little outer wrap and stood before him in the square of soft moonlight framed by the tree^branches on the sloping turf.

“Isn’t is heavenly!” she murmured, with a contented sigh, gazing up through the pale light at the tranquil summer

“Yes, it is rather nice,” he admitted.

“But can’t you feel it go through your blood, like some sort of wine! Can’t you feel it trying to persuade you to give up all your life to little and lovely things!”

The Professor of Anthropology neither remembered Master Richard Sewell nor the carefully balanced phrases of reproof which he had prepared for his companion’s shell-like ear. Instead of recalling this stern duty, he joined Sybil in gazing up at the great silver globe of light that was rising higher and higher in the eastern heavens.

“It is mysterious, isn’t it!” he cried. “Why, it’s almost intoxicating! When you spoke then I experienced a distinct sensation of horripilation — what you would call a thrill, you know!”

“Luna—Luna,” murmured the girl. “It's no wonder they have always called them lunatics, is it!”

As he had so often before noticed, even trivial half-truths on her tongue took on the solemnity of vast and unmeasurable wisdom. Or was it, after all, some elusive wisdom that was greater than he had realized.

ILT E sat in the shadows, watching her.

Her loosened hair had fallen free over her shoulders, and her entire figure was bathed in the soft moonlight. It touched her face and throat and hands into a silvery whiteness, making her eyes luminous and shadowy, seeming to her companion to clothe her in all the alluring mystery and romance of all the world.

The man of science found his thoughts wandering fancifully back to the time when young girls stood on the roofs of Tyre, to the days when Nineveh and all her towers rose to the night and sorrowing women gazed up into the self-same moon, their breasts warm with longing, their hearts heavy with love. He felt suddenly linked and bound with the timeless passions of old.

He liked that lyric impression so much that he tried to impart it to Sybil.

“That’s beautiful!” she murmured, with her hand on his shoulder. And she sat beside him in silence, with her head bent. So motionless did she remain, in fact, that the conviction crept over him that her spirit was engaged in solemn contest with the Muse itself.

She suddenly started to her feet, threw back the fleecy scarf that hung about her shoulders and, stooping to the basket at her feet, lifted on high two handfuls of rose petals.

“Listen!” she said, “and I’ll put what you have said into poetry!” As she recited her improvised lines, in a low and modulated voice that seemed almost a musical accompaniment to the bald words themselves, she allowed the rose petals to

flutter loose, «nd then fall and drift and float about her in the tranquil moonlight. Her face was upturned, the clear profile cut out against the gloom behind it.

She neither sang nor yet did she speak her words. Her voice was a slow murmurous croon, and only the quiet swaying of her body, from side to side, made it possible for the silent onlooker to believe that she was anything more than the garden statue of a wood-nymph bathed in moonlight. And he sat there, listening to the words that fell from her lips, entranced.

0 sad and golden Summer moon,

Where are the lovers thou hast known, Where are their sighs and kisses strewn?

Once some Ionian girl’s low tune, Heart-sick with love, to thee was blown,

0 sad and golden Summer moon !

And some pale Tyrian youth too soon From rapture torn, to thee made moan ; Where are their sighs and kisses strewn?

Once Sappho’s wild and lyric rune Went up to thee from islands lone,

O sad and golden Summer moon !

In Rome and Athens, June by June,

The tears of lovers were thine own; Where are their sighs and kisses strewn?

Aye, down the ages, night and noon, Love and love’s heart to thee have flown ; Where are their sighs and kisses strewn, O sad and golden Summer moon !

Continued on page 77

The Anatomy of Love

Continued from page 21

'T' HE poem ended, and the girl was silent. A little breeze wakened and stirred in the oak-leaves overhead. The man looked at the figure in white, silently. The moon was smiling down on her rapt and upturned face; her full yet girlish lips seemed dark and heavy and wistfully womanlike. Her hands fell to her side, and a little fluttering sigh escaped her lips. For still another long minute the silence that followed remained unbroken.

John Herrin Macraven swallowed hard, before he essayed to speak, for, to his own surprise, he found that his feelings had brought a sudden lump up in his throat.

The girl crossed slowly over to where he sat, as in a trance. He reached out a timid hand, and took hers in his own. She surrendered it, without hesitation, apparently without conscious thought, for her wide and dreamy eyes were still turned to the full moon above the tree-tops.

As he did not speak, she wheeled slowly, at last, and looked down at him. Their eyes met. He felt the vital warmth of her close yet careless hand-clasp creep through his body. A soft anaesthesia seemed stealing over him. yet in that moment of ethereal content he was teased by the vague yet old-time impression that he was being made the victim of some vast conspiracy of nature, that he was being pursued by some intangible and yet implacable force. He had somewhere read that hunters and travellers in India, when attacked by a lion, had confessed to

an alleviating numbness of sense, beneath the lacerating jaws of a maneater, a mysterious toxic condition that took from them all thought of actual pain.

Sybil’s arm crept up to his shoulder, and he no longer psychologized!

■y ET still he did not speak, for as he -*■ was about to open his lips the deepnoted baying of the house dogs seemed to tear a sudden hole in the silence that had enveloped them, like a veil.

The barking grew louder, came closer; across the fields drifted the disturbing sound of voices.

“What can that be?” asked the Professor of Anthropology. His voice sounded strained and unnatural, to even his own ears.

Sybil did not answer. He only felt the fingers in his clasp twitch a little.

“That can’t be young Sewell and Anne back already, can it?” he demanded, inadequately, as he rose to his feet He stood listening, as the sounds grew louder.

“Yes,” he admitted, “those are the dogs. And that’s Anne’s voice I hear, I’m cer-

tain !”

“Oh, bother!” said Sybil, in a strangely irritable and earthly tone of voice.

The moon, palely serene and tranquil, still floated, an ivory-tinted balloon, above the motionless tree-tops. The odor of the dew-wet flowers still stole up to Macraven’s nostrils. But it was not the same moon, and not the same perfume.

To be continued.