Or—throat cut—in the bathroom—
Babbitt flung into Paul’s bathroom. It was empty. He smiled, feebly.
He pulled at his choking collar, looked at his watch, opened the window to stare down at the street, looked at his watch, tried to read the evening paper lying on the glass-topped bureau, looked again at his watch. Three minutes had gone by since he had first looked at it.
And he waited for three hours.
He was sitting fixed, chilled, when the doorknob turned. Paul came in glowering.
“Hello,” Paul said. “Been waiting?”
“Yuh, little while.”
“Well what? Just thought I’d drop in to see how you made out in Akron.”
“I did all right. What difference does it make?”
“Why, gosh, Paul, what are you sore about?”
“What are you butting into my affairs for?”
“Why, Paul, that’s no way to talk! I’m not butting into nothing. I was so glad to see your ugly old phiz that I just dropped in to say howdy.”
“Well, I’m not going to have anybody following me around and trying to boss me. I’ve had all of that I’m going to stand!”
“Well, gosh, I’m not—”
“I didn’t like the way you looked at May Arnold, or the snooty way you talked.”
“Well, all right then! If you think I’m a buttinsky, then I’ll just butt in! I don’t know who your May Arnold is, but I know doggone good and well that you and her weren’t talking about tar-roofing, no, nor about playing the violin, neither! If you haven’t got any moral consideration for yourself, you ought to have some for your position in the community. The idea of your going around places gawping into a female’s eyes like a love-sick pup! I can understand a fellow slipping once, but I don’t propose to see a fellow that’s been as chummy with me as you have getting started on the downward path and sneaking off from his wife, even as cranky a one as Zilla, to go woman-chasing—”
“Oh, you’re a perfectly moral little husband!”
“I am, by God! I’ve never looked at any woman except Myra since I’ve been married—practically—and I never will! I tell you there’s nothing to immorality. It don’t pay. Can’t you see, old man, it just makes Zilla still crankier?”
Slight of resolution as he was of body, Paul threw his snow-beaded overcoat on the floor and crouched on a flimsy cane chair. “Oh, you’re an old blowhard, and you know less about morality than Tinka, but you’re all right, Georgie. But you can’t understand that—I’m through. I can’t go Zilla’s hammering any longer. She’s made up her mind that I’m a devil, and—Reg’lar Inquisition. Torture. She enjoys it. It’s a game to see how sore she can make me. And me, either it’s find a little comfort, any comfort, anywhere, or else do something a lot worse. Now this Mrs. Arnold, she’s not so young, but she’s a fine woman and she understands a fellow, and she’s had her own troubles.”