Paul said argumentatively, “Now, don’t go jumping on Zilla. I’ve been thinking; maybe she hasn’t had any too easy a time. Just after I shot her—I didn’t hardly mean to, but she got to deviling me so I went crazy, just for a second, and pulled out that old revolver you and I used to shoot rabbits with, and took a crack at her. Didn’t hardly mean to—After that, when I was trying to stop the blood—It was terrible what it did to her shoulder, and she had beautiful skin—Maybe she won’t die. I hope it won’t leave her skin all scarred. But just afterward, when I was hunting through the bathroom for some cotton to stop the blood, I ran onto a little fuzzy yellow duck we hung on the tree one Christmas, and I remembered she and I’d been awfully happy then—Hell. I can’t hardly believe it’s me here.” As Babbitt’s arm tightened about his shoulder, Paul sighed, “I’m glad you came. But I thought maybe you’d lecture me, and when you’ve committed a murder, and been brought here and everything—there was a big crowd outside the apartment house, all staring, and the cops took me through it—Oh, I’m not going to talk about it any more.”
But he went on, in a monotonous, terrified insane mumble. To divert him Babbitt said, “Why, you got a scar on your cheek.”
“Yes. That’s where the cop hit me. I suppose cops get a lot of fun out of lecturing murderers, too. He was a big fellow. And they wouldn’t let me help carry Zilla down to the ambulance.”
“Paul! Quit it! Listen: she won’t die, and when it’s all over you and I’ll go off to Maine again. And maybe we can get that May Arnold to go along. I’ll go up to Chicago and ask her. Good woman, by golly. And afterwards I’ll see that you get started in business out West somewhere, maybe Seattle—they say that’s a lovely city.”
Paul was half smiling. It was Babbitt who rambled now. He could not tell whether Paul was heeding, but he droned on till the coming of Paul’s lawyer, P. J. Maxwell, a thin, busy, unfriendly man who nodded at Babbitt and hinted, “If Riesling and I could be alone for a moment—”
Babbitt wrung Paul’s hands, and waited in the office till Maxwell came pattering out. “Look, old man, what can I do?” he begged.
“Nothing. Not a thing. Not just now,” said Maxwell. “Sorry. Got to hurry. And don’t try to see him. I’ve had the doctor give him a shot of morphine, so he’ll sleep.”
It seemed somehow wicked to return to the office. Babbitt felt as though he had just come from a funeral. He drifted out to the City Hospital to inquire about Zilla. She was not likely to die, he learned. The bullet from Paul’s huge old .44 army revolver had smashed her shoulder and torn upward and out.
He wandered home and found his wife radiant with the horified interest we have in the tragedies of our friends. “Of course Paul isn’t altogether to blame, but this is what comes of his chasing after other women instead of bearing his cross in a Christian way,” she exulted.