Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/267

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that as they did so, Gilberto coughed raucously and, as if by signal, the Third Grade burst into a medley of excited coughs. Frantically he tried to think—to plan. Ticher was too busy receiving the new arrivals to be bothered. And, after all, it was Raphael, monitor of the handkerchiefs, who had been criminally remiss in his vigilance. Well, he must think what to do.

Covetously he eyed the filmy white of Anita Perez’s new frock. What beautiful handkerchiefs that would make! But Anita sat in the far corner of the room. Sober reflection convinced Raphael that, in any event, Anita was not the person to sacrifice her elegance—even to save the day for the Third Grade. But girls did wear white things—underneath, where they could never be missed.

In front of Raphael sat Emilia Villa. Raphael leaned forward and prodded Emilia’s plump back with a determined forefinger. Emilia turned upon him coldly questioning eyes.

“You take off the clothes—the onderneath clothes,” directed Raphael, ruthlessly.

Emilia stared at him in open-mouthed horror.

“The white clothes,” insisted Raphael in a hoarse whisper.

“Take heem off. To mag the rag for the nose. Many sneeze⸻”

Before his desperate look Emilia shrank to the edge of her seat in a panic. Her eyes and mouth opened to their widest extent. Obviously she was about to shriek for help. Terrified at the consequences of his rashness, Raphael cowered back into his corner. Eventually Emilia thought better of it; she did not scream. But it was evident that he could expect no coöperation from her. He must think of something else. If only he wore skirts. Then, suddenly, Raphael’s eyes kindled. Raphael knew now what to do.

No one noticed the frightened little boy who stole quietly from his seat near the door and vanished into the hallway. No one saw him return five minutes later, except Miss Lipscomb, who looked slightly startled at first; then smiled comprehendingly as she noted that he was wearing his heavy coat.

“I think, Pedro,” she smiled to the monitor of the register, “that you had better close a window and give us some more heat.”