ONE USES THE HANDKERCHIEF
ing copiously at every pore, with eyes downcast and limbs trembling with mortification, he staggered back and forth, dragging into their places the gay letters that illuminated the text which the good Americans at the front of the stage were bravely expounding to a persistent accompaniment of titters and whispers.
Finally, amid riotous applause they took their seats. There was a special salvo for Raphael, and all eyes followed him. But he was not deceived. This was not the honest tribute paid to the true artist like Ramon. Raphael had spoiled the show and he knew it. He had shocked, with his nakedness, the delicate sensibilities of the Third Grade’s gentle public. What was almost as bad, the carefully constructed legend at the back of the stage spelled not Health First but Healf Thirst.
Back in his warm corner by the register, Raphael shed perspiration and tears, his heart sick with shame, his face buried in his arms.
Miss Lipscomb watched him pitifully as the exercises went on. She longed to comfort him; and, still more, she longed for a solution to the mystery. For she knew that Raphael had worn a shirt when he came to school that morning. In the midst of the ringing final chorus one of the ladies turned to her.
“I wish you would tell me—I have been wondering all afternoon,” she whispered, “why so many of your children have handkerchiefs exactly alike. Do they buy them by the piece?”
Ticher sat up very straight and stared. For the first time she realized that this was true, and that there was something hauntingly familiar about the colour scheme of those handkerchiefs—a dull cream background, faintly flecked with red. Suddenly her face rippled into an understanding smile, so radiant that the Third Grade involuntarily beamed in response. Even Raphael, who had raised his shamed eyes for the first time, saw, and was so infinitely cheered that he straightened up and prepared to give his attention to the rest of the programme.
Even now the Big Boss from the mill was rising, an expression of mingled amusement and doubt on his smooth, fair face. But as he stepped forward, Ticher suddenly did a