“Does he get tired? No, he doesn’t get tired, he just goes crazy, that’s all! You think Paul is so reasonable, oh, yes, and he loves to make out he’s a little lamb, but he’s stubborn as a mule. Oh, if you had to live with him—! You’d find out how sweet he is! He just pretends to be meek so he can have his own way. And me, I get the credit for being a terrible old crank, but if I didn’t blow up once in a while and get something started, we’d die of dry-rot. He never wants to go any place and—Why, last evening, just because the car was out of order—and that was his fault, too, because he ought to have taken it to the service-station and had the battery looked at—and he didn’t want to go down to the movies on the trolley. But we went, and then there was one of those impudent conductors, and Paul wouldn’t do a thing.
“I was standing on the platform waiting for the people to let me into the car, and this beast, this conductor, hollered at me, ’Come on, you, move up!’ Why, I’ve never had anybody speak to me that way in all my life! I was so astonished I just turned to him and said—I thought there must be some mistake, and so I said to him, perfectly pleasant, ’Were you speaking to me?’ and he went on and bellowed at me, ’Yes, I was! You’re keeping the whole car from starting!’ he said, and then I saw he was one of these dirty ill-bred hogs that kindness is wasted on, and so I stopped and looked right at him, and I said, ’I—beg—your—pardon, I am not doing anything of the kind,’ I said, ’it’s the people ahead of me, who won’t move up,’ I said, ’and furthermore, let me tell you, young man, that you’re a low-down, foul-mouthed, impertinent skunk,’ I said, ’and you’re no gentleman! I certainly intend to report you, and we’ll see,’ I said, ’whether a lady is to be insulted by any drunken bum that chooses to put on a ragged uniform, and I’d thank you,’ I said, ’to keep your filthy abuse to yourself.’ And then I waited for Paul to show he was half a man and come to my defense, and he just stood there and pretended he hadn’t heard a word, and so I said to him, ‘Well,’ I said—”
“Oh, cut it, cut it, Zill!” Paul groaned. “We all know I’m a mollycoddle, and you’re a tender bud, and let’s let it go at that.”
“Let it go?” Zilla’s face was wrinkled like the Medusa, her voice was a dagger of corroded brass. She was full of the joy of righteousness and bad temper. She was a crusader and, like every crusader, she exulted in the opportunity to be vicious in the name of virtue. “Let it go? If people knew how many things I’ve let go—”
“Oh, quit being such a bully.”
“Yes, a fine figure you’d cut if I didn’t bully you! You’d lie abed till noon and play your idiotic fiddle till midnight! You’re born lazy, and you’re born shiftless, and you’re born cowardly, Paul Riesling—”
“Oh, now, don’t say that, Zilla; you don’t mean a word of it!” protested Mrs. Babbitt.
“I will say that, and I mean every single last word of it!”