“Gather around close, Ladies,” Mr. Ratherquite said. “I’ve just got something quite important to read to you.”
“It better be worth the time it takes to hear!” the red-haired lady announced.
“Yes, I agree,” the corpulent lady followed up, shaking her curls.
Mr. Ratherquite smiled. “It is. Listen: ‘The phases of the womanly nature are infinite in their variety. Take any type of woman, and you will find in it something to respect, something to admire, something to love.’”
“Oh, how sweet!” the red-haired lady said.
The corpulent lady smiled. “Is it yours, dear sir?”
“Sadly not,” Mr. Ratherquite answered. “It’s—”
“Let me guess whose it is!” Schwarz Tauptinker said, stepping into the room.
Mr. Ratherquite looked a bit unhappy. “Go ahead.”
“Not fair!” the red-haired lady called out. “We must get to guess too! Isn’t that right, darling?”
The corpulent lady nodded her agreement.
“I go first,” Schwarz said, “‘cause I thought up the game. Chickit.”
“Go ahead,” Mr. Ratherquite said again. “Who said that quote?”
“Mozart?” Schwarz guessed.
“Wrong,” Mr. Ratherquite answered.
“Froggie the bean?” Schwarz seemed unsure about this guess.
The ladies started to giggle.
“Good, sir!” Mr. Ratherquite said, chucking. “What would possess you to guess that?”
Schwarz thought for a moment. “I got it! Schwarz said it!”
“You can’t guess yourself, dolt,” the red-haired lady said.
“Now, Ladies”—Mr. Ratherquite smiled—“It’s your turn to guess.”
“We give up!” the corpulent lady said.
“We do indeed,” the red-haired lady announced.
Mr. Ratherquite laughed heartily. “It was Mr. Mark Twain who said it.”
“Very lovely of him,” both ladies said at once.
Now, throughout this entire conversation, the professor was sitting in an armchair, reading a book. This is when I spoke up.
“I wouldn’t say it was nice of him. Since he referred to a woman as ‘it’. It seems—to this professor, anyway—that Mr. Ratherquite was secretly and silently insulting both of you—very professorish of him, in fact.”
Mr. Ratherquite grew red in the face. “You, sir, are rude, crude—”
“And observant,” this professor finished.