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cheerful silence. He stopped for a moment to cram his soft hat into a pocket of the coat which he was already carrying.
Minnie Bee, high up among unfamiliar hills, looked critically about her and said that she had never been up there.
They went on, Roddy slightly in the lead, his eyes shining with the surprise he had in store for Minnie Bee. A riotous wind was whipping his roomy shirt about his beautiful slant of back and shoulder. His head made a dusky glory. in the blue day. Now and again he looked back at Minnie Bee with a smile, appreciative of her prowess thus far, and encouraging her to further feats. Minnie Bee, who felt lifted on wings of lightness, always smiled back. She was a hovering radiance in his wake. At the edge of the highest hill Roddy said in a quiet tone of triumph: "Now."
They stepped over the crest. Far, far below, in a deep, wide cup, compacted of the colors of the fall, lay a green valley. In it a white town shone by a river of gold. The cup was brimmed with sunshine and patterned with cloud shadows. It offered up beauty forever.
"I came on all this of a sudden one day last fall," said Roddy, his eyes alight. Minnie Bee understood. He had wished her, too, to see it suddenly, like that, because it had been wonderful to him.
He spread his coat for her beneath a slender locust, and threw himself down near, among the thin, pointed little golden leaves, already scattered in the just seared
Minnie Bee looked at the white town. It was very far away, so far away that it was spanned by a spray of goldenrod. She hummed:
"Lo! there hath been dawning Another blue day."
She did not know when she had ever felt so happy.
"Now," said Roddy, "let us talk about everything in the world."
"What must we begin with?" asked Minnie Bee.
"Suppose," said Roddy, rising on his elbow, "we begin with friendship."
"Friendship?" asked Minnie Bee in an odd tone, almost as if she had never heard of such a thing.
"Friendship," said Roddy, "is the most wonderful relation in the world. You can't always depend on your lover or your brother, but you can always depend on your friend."
"I never had one," said Minnie Bee. She was thinking of the girls whom she had known in a way all her life, of the lovely, sweet girls in the town down there with whom she had gone to church and to school, but among whom she had never had a friend.
"You can have one now," said Roddy, deliberately, "if you want him."
"You!" cried Minnie Bee. It was the strangest exclamation.
Roddy colored furiously.
"I beg your pardon," he flashed in clean-cut words. His quick thought was that Minnie Bee had heard of a thing of which it was altogether unlikely she should have heard, a long-ago action of his, repented in full, paid for in full, done with forever, he had hoped, save as one never is done with anything.
Minnie Bee put an impulsive hand on his rigid arm.
"You see, I happened just to be thinking of girl friends," said Minnie Bee, somewhat shakily. "Why, I-I 'd love to be friends with you."
He searched her with his gaze. She offered him her hand in the sweetest manner to seal their pact. Its firm, generous pressure reassured Roddy wholly.
"I'm glad," he said, still holding the convincing hand, "because, when I met you last evening, it was what you might call friendship at first sight with me."
Minnie Bee, still smiling beautifully at Roddy, took back her hand. She did not say what it had been at first sight with her.
ONCE more Minnie Bee and Roddy wandered on the sheer rim of the wide cup of the hills. Fire haze of Indian summer
obscured the land and blotted the sky. It turned the sun to the round red-paper sun of an astrologer's weird garment. brimmed the cup of the hills with a universe of bluish, faintly irradiated particles. Minnie Bee and Roddy were as solitary as two persons in a dream. They were closed in by a dimness that might, for aught they could see to the contrary, stretch away to the farthest reaches of space and time. Wandering thus, as in an enchantment, they came on a forest of stickweed.
"Did you ever," asked Roddy, "do this?"
He broke a lance of stickweed stalk. nicked it just so far from one end, broke another slighter lance, and fitted an end. of that into the nick. Holding these two lances high in air, he bent together their free ends, and with some adroit turn of wrist swiftly hurled the slighter one from him.
Minnie Bee exclaimed in delight and astonishment. It seemed impossible that the serpent of velvet black simulating Hogarth's line of beauty far above them could be the stickweed stalk hurled by Roddy the second before. It darted higher still. It did not turn in descent until it had flung itself, blazing, across the unreal face of the sun. It fell very slowly, while Minnie Bee held her breath. It was lost in the haze-brimmed cup of the hills. "Look! look!" cried Minnie Bee in a joyous tone.
A second serpent was hurling itself from the rim of the opposite hill. It strove to outdo Roddy's serpent. It outdid it.
"I'll not take that," said Roddy.
He flung a second lance. The serpent it immediately became darted viciously toward the zenith, far, far above the unreal face of the sun. Minnie Bee's eyes sparkled. She might have fancied herself a legendary princess beholding the encounter of rival magicians. Evidently the unseen magician was not going to stand that either. A fourth serpent rose; but through some default of magic sank ignominiously into the deeper blue haze that marked the hills along the horizon. In
stantly a fifth serpent hurled itself on the tail of the fourth.
"He's mad," laughed Roddy, who had just sent his answer.
The unknown's serpent suffered from no default of magic this time. The two met in mid-air, and strove for supremacy. It was toss up between them straight above Minnie Bee's upturned face when they incredibly touched and fell slowly together, like enemies who had warily made
"Bravo!" shouted Roddy in his ferrycall tremolo.
A return call echoed faintly, and was drowned, as the serpents had been drowned, in blue haze.
"Wonder who that was," said Roddy."Show me how!" pleaded Minnie Bee. She did not learn the trick readily. Her stickweed lance remained a stickweed lance, falling stiffly close by, and never turning into a magic serpent at all.
"You have to begin doing it when you are a little tad," said Roddy, exploring a pocket. "Here, I'll show where I learned to throw stickweed." He took out a pack of kodak pictures. of kodak pictures. "Let us sit down." He made a place for her in the edge of the stickweed forest, and stood for a moment gazing at her. Pale brown of November grasses, vague blue of forest smoke, dim gold of withering, but still flaunting, autumn weeds, were all about them. With these Minnie Bee's vaguely blue dress and shining head made a harmony which even an untrained eye could appreciate.
He flung himself beside her, resting on his elbow, and arranging the pictures in order on the grass. He indicated one.
"On those old hills there," said Roddy, "right along the river. Mary and I used to see how far down it we could throw." "Mary?"
"My sister; her name is Mary, too." He pronounced it "Murry." He smiled on Minnie Bee, "I'd like you two to meet."
Minnie Bee asked hurriedly: "And who 's this?"
"My father," Roddy told her, pride in his voice.
"That," said Roddy, in a thoughtful, but matter-of-fact, tone-"that 's Susy. Breck's wife, you know." He looked reflectively at the ground before him for a brief moment. "I dare say Wirt has told you a lot of nonsense?" He put it to her suddenly. She colored, and Roddy went on: "I was fearfully in love with Susy more than a year back, but old Breck came home and cut me out. They ran away together this summer and got married. Now they live at Cedarcliff with the rest of us. I'm very fond of Susy, but I'm not the least in love with her any more, of course. I'm not in love with any one. Being friends is good enough for me," said Roddy. "And, by the way, I've a poem about being friends which I 've been saving up in my head for you."
He began to recite, sitting up and clasping his knees, his eyes on the absurd red-paper sun.
"The one thing changes do not change, The one thing mine quite to the end, Time may not alter or estrange
Your heart, my little friend."
He gave her a calm, affectionate glance. and continued:
"We do not love as lovers may;
Someway one gets diviner good From this serene companionship And surety of mood.
"That says it," commented Roddy, with superb certitude.
Minnie Bee had a quaint, tender feeling for Roddy just then. She thought there could n't be much to a girl, however beautiful, who could give up a splendid boy like Roddy for that slight, sneering, gambling, drinking Breck Ivor. She cast her scornfully face down, and turned to Roddy, who had taken up another picture. It was a lovely view of Cedarcliff, and it was the house and grounds of Minnie Bee's despairing dreams. She could not keep the slow tears of longing from welling. It looked so old and quiet and big and lived in and loved! She contemplated it so long that Roddy glanced at her curiously.
"Why, Minnie Bee!" he cried in
"I want to be born and grow up in a house like that," said Minnie Bee, ridiculously. "I hate little houses. I hate little yards. I hate little towns."
"Why, honey," said Roddy, "what 's it all about?"
His tone was distressed and thoughtful and more. It confessed to Minnie Bee's attuned ear that Roddy knew very well what it was all about.
"Is n't that a persimmon-tree, over there?" she asked, blinking her tears away.
"Looks as if it might be," said Roddy, cautiously following her lead.
"Please see," said Minnie Bee, calmly, as if she had not been making an idiot of herself a moment earlier. "I'm very fond of persimmons-once a year."
"And surety of mood,'" quoted Roddy all to himself, going off to throw sticks at dangling, amber bunches of fruit. The persimmons came tapping down on the dry, brown grasses.
"Poor little kid!" murmured Roddy. tenderly.
Not many had fallen, so he flung more sticks. A lavish shower resulted, and,
Minnie Bee, he He filled her
turning to go back to found her by his side. cupped hands.
"I don't believe they 've had their three frosts yet," said Minnie Bee. She made a childish face over a persimmon, and tossed away the rest. They sank like bright-colored stones in the blue haze which filled the cup of the hills.
Continuing around the crest they encountered a remotely gazing figure. It was Seaton, also making a round of the hilltops. He glanced at Roddy.
"Was it your stickweed?" he asked. Roddy made a gesture of assent, and Seaton turned to Minnie Bee, who stood looking off into the distance with a detached air.
"Well," said Seaton, smiling down on her, "it did n't get the better of mine, did it ?"
He lifted his hat to Minnie Bee, and lounged off into the ubiquitous haze.
Roddy watched him from sight.
"He looks rather old to be here," he said, turning to Minnie Bee.
She answered carelessly:
"Oh, he finished here ages ago. He came back to take a graduate course in civil law, so as to be able to manage his property intelligently, he says. His father left him a sugar plantation in Louisiana."
"And you can see," said Roddy, "that he looks down on everybody except Adam and Beauregard. What 's wrong?"
"This thorn vine; it 's got my hem." "We'll make it let go, then," said Roddy, getting to a knee.
But it was a tenacious wretch of a thorn vine, and held to Minnie Bee's hem so effectually that the soft fabric was pulled and slightly rent before the vine was cut and coaxed away.
"I'm afraid I've been a clumsy duffer over it," said Roddy, straightening up.
"It's not your fault," said Minnie Bee; "you did the best you could."
RODDY stood by Minnie Bee's bookcase, looking over a recent number of "The Fixed Star," their college magazine.
"This Heathcliffe makes me dead tired," said Roddy. He read a line aloud: "The winter lies before like an endless
"Like fun it does," said Roddy. He glanced at Minnie Bee, expecting complete agreement. Minnie Bee, however, was eying him queerly from her window-seat.
"Roddy," said Minnie Bee, "do you really mean that you are in your third year here without knowing that I am Heathcliffe?"
"You?" said Roddy. He stared at Minnie Bee, and saw that she was in earnest. "Are n't you ashamed of yourself?" asked Roddy.
"Why?" cried Minnie Bee, with a quick flare of the artistic temperament.
"Oh," conceded Roddy, "it 's good enough; but that only makes it worse of you."
"Makes what worse of me?"
"The winter lies before like an endless sorrow,"
quoted Roddy again. "And I came to take you sleigh-riding this morning. Here, I'll have this out with you presently. Go get on your things, and wrap up well."
When she came back, though well wrapped up, she did n't seem to suit him.
"Where are your furs?" asked Roddy. "Oh, I don't need furs," said Minnie Bee. Gradually faint color overspread her face from brow to chin in a warm pinkness. How was she to tell him that if she could n't have good furs she would n't have any? "This," added Minnie Bee, flippantly, "is the South, Roddy, where we pick flowers the year round."
Roddy smiled back at her.
"I guess the snow made me forget. Stupid of me." He forgave himself many more serious blunders, but he never forgave himself for asking Minnie Bee why she did not wear her furs on that nipping January morning.
"How," he asked as they drove under an arch of enchantingly improbable white boughs, "did you ever come to write for 'The Fixed Star'?"