The Boarded-Up House/Chapter 12
A SLIGHT DISAGREEMENT
The Friday afternoon meeting of the Sigma Sigma literary society broke up with the usual confused mingling of chatter and laughter. There had been a lively debate, and Joyce and Cynthia, as two of the opponents, had just finished roundly and wordily belaboring each other. They entwined arms now, amiably enough, and strolled away to collect their books and leave for home. Out on the street, Cynthia suddenly began:
"Do you know, we've never had that illumination in the Boarded-up House that we planned last fall, when we commenced cleaning up there."
"We never had enough money for candles," replied Joyce.
"Yes, I know. But still I've always wanted to do it. Suppose we buy some and try it soon,—say to-morrow?" Joyce turned to her companion with an astonished stare.
"Why, Cynthia Sprague! You know it's near the end of the month, and I'm down to fifteen cents again, and I guess you aren't much better off! What nonsense!"
"I have two dollars and a half. I've been saving it up ever so long—not for that specially—but I'm perfectly willing to use it for that."
"Well, you are the queerest one!" exclaimed Joyce. "Who would have thought you'd care so much about it! Of course, I'm willing to go in for it, but I can't give my share till after the first of the month. Why do you want to do it so soon?"
"Oh, I don't know—just because I do!" replied Cynthia, a little confused in manner. "Come! Let's buy the candles right off. And suppose we do a little dusting and cleaning up in the morning, and fix the candles in the candelabrum, and in the afternoon light them up and have the fun of watching them?" Joyce agreed to this heartily, and they turned into a store to purchase the candles. Much to Joyce's amazement, Cynthia insisted on investing in the best wax ones she could obtain, though they cost nearly five cents apiece.
"Tallow ones will do!" whispered Joyce, aghast at such extravagance. But Cynthia shook her head, and came away with more than fifty.
"I wanted them good!" she said, and Joyce could not budge her from this position. Then, to change the subject, which was plainly becoming embarrassing to her, Cynthia abruptly remarked:
"Don't forget, Joyce, that you are coming over to my house to dinner, and this evening we'll do our studying, so that to-morrow we can have the whole day free. And bring your music over, too. Perhaps we'll have time to practise that duet afterward."
"I will," agreed Joyce, and she turned in at her own gate.
Joyce came over that evening, bringing her books and music. As Mr. and Mrs. Sprague were occupying the sitting-room, the two girls decided to work in the dining-room, and accordingly spread out their books and papers all over the big round table. Cynthia settled down methodically and studiously, as was her wont. But Joyce happened to be in one of her "fly-away humors" (so Cynthia always called them), when she found it quite impossible to concentrate her thoughts or give her serious attention to anything. These moods were always particularly irritating to Cynthia, who rarely indulged in causeless hilarity, especially at study periods. Prudently, however, she made no remarks.
"Let's commence with geometry," she suggested, opening the text-book. "Here we are, at Proposition XVI."
"All right," assented Joyce, with deceptive sweetness. "Give me a pencil and paper, please." Cynthia handed them to her and began:
"Angle A equals angle B."
"Angel A equals angel B," murmured Joyce after her.
"Joyce, I wish you would not say that!" interrupted Cynthia, sharply.
"Why not?" inquired Joyce with pretended surprise, at the same time decorating the corners of her diagram with cherubic heads and wings.
"Because it confuses me so I can't think!" said Cynthia. "Please call things by their right names."
"But it makes no difference with the proof, what you call things in geometry," argued Joyce, "whether it's angles or angels or caterpillars or coal-scuttles,—it's all the same in the end!" Cynthia ignored this, swallowed her rising wrath, and doggedly began anew:
"Angle A equals angle B!" But Joyce, who was a born tease, could no more resist the temptation of baiting Cynthia, than she could have refused a chocolate ice-cream soda, so she continued to make foolish and irrelevant comments on every geometrical statement, until, in sheer exasperation, Cynthia threw the book aside.
"It's no use!" she groaned. "You're not in a studying frame of mind, Joyce—certainly not for geometry. I'll go over that myself Monday morning; but what you're going to do about it, I don't know—and I don't much care! But we've got to get through somehow. Let's try the algebra. You always like that. Do you think you could put your mind on it?"
"I'll try," grinned Joyce, in feigned contrition. "I'll make the greatest effort. But you don't seem to realize that I'm actually working very hard to-night!" Cynthia opened her algebra, picked out the problem, and read:
"'A farmer sold 300 acres—'" when Joyce suddenly interrupted:
"Do you know, Cynthia, I heard the most interesting problem the other day. I wonder if you could solve it."
"What is it?" asked Cynthia, thankful for any awakening symptom of interest in her difficult friend.
"Why, this," repeated Joyce with great gravity. "'If it takes an elephant ten minutes to put on a white vest, how many pancakes will it take to shingle a freight-car?'" Cynthia's indignation was rapidly waxing hotter but she made one more tremendous effort to control it.
"Joyce, I told you that I was serious about this studying."
"But so am I!" insisted the wicked Joyce. "Now let's try to work that out. Let x equal the number of pancakes—" The end of Cynthia's patience had come, however. She pushed the books aside.
"Joyce Kenway, you are—abominable! I wish you would go home!"
"Well, I won't!" retorted Joyce, giggling inwardly, "but I'll leave you to your own devices, if you like!" And she rose from the table, walked with great dignity to a distant rocking-chair, seated herself in it, and pretended to read the daily paper which she had removed from its seat. From time to time she glanced covertly in Cynthia's direction. But there was no sign of relenting in that young lady. She was, indeed, too deeply indignant, and, moreover, had immersed herself in her work. Presently Joyce gave up trying to attract her attention, and began to read the paper in real earnest,—a thing which she seldom had the time or the interest to do.
There was a long silence in the room, broken only by the scratch of Cynthia's pencil or the rustling of a turned page. Suddenly Joyce looked up.
"Cynthia!" she began. Her voice sounded different now. It had lost its teasing tone and seemed a little muffled. But Cynthia was obdurate.
"I don't want to talk to you!" she reiterated. "I wish you'd go home!"
"Very well, Cynthia, I will!" answered Joyce, quietly. And she gathered up her books and belongings, giving her friend a queer look as she left the room without another word.
Later, Cynthia put away her work, yawned, and rose from the table. She was beginning to feel just a trifle sorry that she had been so short with her beloved friend.
"But Joyce was simply impossible, to-night!" she mused. "I never knew her to be quite so foolish. Hope she isn't really offended. But she'll have forgotten all about it by to-morrow morning.… I wonder where to-day's paper is? Joyce was reading it—or pretending to! I want to see the weather report for to-morrow. I hope it's going to be fair.… Pshaw! I can't find it. She must have gathered it up with her things and taken it with her. That was mighty careless—but just like Joyce! I'm going to bed!"