Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/261

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lordly tolerance. “That Concha, she eats hees pencils. I do not lig eaten pencils. I can buy awthers.”

What magnificence! thought Raphael, One would do well to watch this dashing person and learn from him, when one obviously had so much to learn to be like the others and to please the pretty lady at the desk, who smiled at one so gently.

Now the lady spoke rather shortly.

“Go on, Ramon,” she commanded. “What has all this to do with sneezing?”

“To be the good American,” went on Ramon, “one keeps clean the body and the clothes. One breathes by hees nose weeth the window open, always the fresh air. To breathe the bad air iss lig to drink the dirty water. Eet iss full off thoss bug that call heemself ‘my-my-my-cubs.’ No, no, Ticher. Eet iss not so that they call heemself. Eet iss——

“Microbes,” suggested Miss ‘Lipscomb, and put her handkerchief to her face as if she, too, were about to sneeze.

“Ticher, yess, ma’am. Eet iss heem that mag us seek. And to cough and sneeze weethout to cover the mouth,” Ramon’s voice dropped impressively a minor third, “iss to fill weeth thoss my-my-weeth thoss dirty bug the clean air.” The lecturer’s tense face and dramatically waving hands suggested an atmosphere swarming with loathsome, slimy monsters.

At his suggestive pantomime the wide-eyed Raphael cringed in his corner, shuddering at thought of the unknown horrors he had unwittingly loosed upon his hapless schoolmates.

“They get inside off us,” went on Ramon with unmistakable gusto, “and eat on us, and they——

“That will do, Ramon.” Ticher cut the discourse short, startled by the shrinking horror in the eyes Raphael turned upon her. “Now give Raphael one of those pieces of clean cloth from the closet. I am sure that he will never sneeze without covering his face again.”

Indeed Raphael would not. As if in anticipation of some cataclysmic attack of hay fever, he thereafter hoarded in his bulging pockets clean rags of all sizes and shapes, and kept his nose chastely buried in one of them much of the time, coming up only when air was necessary for the efficient per-