Of Fifi on Friendship, and who would be sorry if Queed died; of Queed’s Mad Impulse, sternly overcome; of his Indignant Call upon Nicolovius, the Old Professor.
Could I interrupt you for just a minute, Mr. Queed?”
“No. It is not time yet.”
“Cicero’s so horrid to-night.”
“Don’t scatter your difficulties, as I’ve told you before. Gather them all together and have them ready to present to me at the proper time. I shall make the usual pause,” said Mr. Queed, “at nine sharp.”
Fifi, after all, had been selfish enough to take the little Doctor at his word. He had both given her the freedom of his dining-room and ordered her to bring her difficulties to him, instead of sitting there and noisily crying over them. And she had done his bidding, night after night. For his part he had stuck manfully by his moment of reckless generosity, no matter how much he may have regretted it. He helped Fifi, upon her request, without spoken protest or censure. But he insisted on doing it after an iron-clad schedule: Absolute silence until nine o’clock; then an interlude for the solving of difficulties; absolute silence after that; then at 9.45 a second interlude for the solving of the last difficulties of the night. The old rule of the dining-room, the Silence sign, had been necessarily suspended, but the young man enforced his schedule of hours far more strictly than the average railroad.
“Nine o’clock,” he announced presently. “Bring me your difficulties.”
Fifi’s brain was at low ebb to-night. She came around with several books, and he jabbed his pencil at her open Cicero with some contempt.
“You have a fundamental lack of acquaintance with Latin grammar, Miss—Miss Fifi. You badly need—”
“Why don’t you call me Fifi, Mr. Queed? That’s what all my friends call me.”
He stared at her startled; she thought his eyes looked almost terrified. “My dear young lady! I’m not your friend.”
A rare color sprang into Fifi’s pallid cheeks: “I—I thought you liked me—from your being so good about helping me with my lessons—and everything.”
Queed cleared his throat. “I do like you—in a way. Yes—in that way—I like you very well. I will call you F—Fifi, if you wish. But—friends! Oh, no! They take up more time than such a man as I can afford.”
“I don’t think I would take up one bit more time as your friend than I do now,” said Fifi, in a plaintive voice.
Queed, uncomfortably aware of the flying minutes, felt like saying that that was impossible.
“Oh, I know what I’m talking about, I assure you,” said the possessor of two friends in New York. “I have threshed the whole question out in a practical way.”
“Suppose,” said Fifi, “your book came out and you were very famous, but all alone in the world, without a friend. And you died and there was not one single person to cry and miss you—would you think that was a—a successful life?”