Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/262

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formance of his scholastic duties. It was not enough for Raphael that crimes against the public safety should be rebuked after their commission. He fervently believed in the traditional ounce of prevention.

“Ticher,” he would burst out in a frantic stage whisper, suddenly starting from his seat to point a rigid forefinger, “Ticher, I thing Jesus is going to sneeze. Pleass you espick heem queeck cover the nose.”

His enthusiasm eventually won for him his appointment as “monitor of the handkerchiefs,” in which capacity he dispensed from the store in the cupboard clean cloths to those members of the Third Grade who failed to equip themselves for emergencies. The performance of this duty was a holy rite to Raphael; for did it not mean that he, in his humble way, was, like the brilliant Ramon, learning to be “the good American”?

This appointment was Raphael’s one triumph, for he was not very versatile, hopelessly lacking, indeed, in those graceful accomplishments whereby Ramon held enslaved his little public. The only time Raphael had attempted to join his class in song, those directly about him had become immediately voiceless with wonder and delight. Emilia Villa, when questioned by Ticher as to why she did not sing, had explained all too frankly, “But, Ticher, how can I e-sink when that Raphael e-sinks? That noiss she mags—eet iss too awful!” And Raphael had seen Manuelo Habanera executing with his hands at his ears a peculiar fan-like movement whose suggestion was unmistakable.

About a month after Raphael entered school Ticher told the class about the proposed Americanization exercises, to be held here in their own schoolroom. There were to be songs and speeches, and there would be people there, she told the Third Grade, many people, to see and hear them. And—ultimate thrill—there would be a prize, offered by the Big Boss of the mining company that owned the town, for the pupil who had proved himself most truly American.

During the discussion of the programme, Ramon scored very neatly by a humorous suggestion that Raphael be allowed to sing.

But Miss Lipscomb had come to Raphael’s rescue with a lovely smile.