Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/264

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bobbed many ribbon bows of extravagant size and brightness, poised like magic butterflies upon dark locks ordinarily restrained only by wrapping cord or good sensible shoestring.

On the outskirts of the group hovered the boys, whose concessions to the occasion took the less exotic form of astoningly clean shirts and of neckties borrowed from fathers or elder brothers—all except the exquisite Ramon. Ramon out-carmined in his splendour the proverbial little red wagon elegant from head to foot with newly barbered locks, white shirt, gay striped tie of orange and red, and new shoes—shiny new shoes, of a soul-satisfying squeakiness which necessitated many bustling trips to and fro across the room.

Raphael ruefully compared them with his own unpretentious footwear, a somewhat worn pair of buttoned boots which yawned obtrusively where several buttons were missing. The tips turned up about two inches from the ends where his toes stopped. It was impossible to bustle importantly in boots like these; indeed, they were only too likely even at a moderate pace to trip one whose movements were uncertain at best.

Raphael looked often for assurance down at his shirt. It was not new, not new enough to make him feel vulgarly over-dressed, and it was much too large for him; but the pattern still showed in a pleasing red polka dot, and it was refreshingly clean. He rubbed his hand fondly over its smooth, starched surface.

Suddenly the monitor of the handkerchiefs was recalled to his duties by the sound of a stentorian sneeze. Peering anxiously about for the offender, he saw Jesus Estradilla just throwing back her head, eyes closed, mouth open, for another ecstatic outburst. He was saved from the necessity for official interference by the fact that Jesus had already unpinned the safety pin that fastened her handkerchief to her waist and now held the bit of muslin dramatically poised for action. Raphael was relieved, for Jesus was always unpleasantly on the defensive against interferences with her personal liberties.

“You, Raphael Arcienega,” she had once told him severely, “you wipe your own nose—and I wipe mine. Eh? Bueno!

However, the incident reminded him of something. He really must confer with Ticher to learn whether the stock of clean rags in the closet would be adequate to any emergency.