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When A Man’s Widowed
by [?]

It was a quarter past nine and Miss Bailey was calling the roll, an undertaking which, after months of daily practice, was still formidable. Beginning with Abraham Abrahamowsky and continuing through the alphabet to Solomon Zaracheck, the roll-call of the First-Reader Class was full of stumbling blocks and pitfalls. Teacher insisted upon absolute silence during the five minutes thus consumed, and so it chanced that the excitement of Miss Blake, bursting into Room 18 at this particular time, was thrown into strong relief against the prevailing peace.

“Miss Bailey,” began the ruffled sovereign of the room across the hall, “did the Principal speak to you about one of my boys being put back into your grade?”

“Oh, yes; some weeks ago.”

“Well, he has been absent ever since, but he turned up this morning. Are you ready to take him now?”

“But of course–How old is he?”

“Nearly seven. Too old for your grade and too advanced, but the Principal wants you to have him because my boys laugh at him. His mother is dead, his sisters in an orphan asylum, and we thought that your little girls might have a civilizing influence over him.”

“Perhaps they may,” Teacher cheerfully acquiesced. “Eva Gonorowsky alone would civilize a whole tribe of savages. Will you bring him to me?”

The door of Room 17 was not quite closed, and from behind it came sounds of talking and of laughter. Miss Blake threw a few words upon the turmoil, and silence immediately ensued. Then said she: “Isidore Diamantstein, come here,” and the only result was a slight titter.

“Abie Fishhandler,” she next commanded, “bring Diamantstein to Miss Bailey’s room.”

The tittering increased and to it were added a scuffle and a sleepily fretful “Lemme be.” A heavy footstep crossed the hall and the stalwart Abie Fishhandler stalked into Room 18, bearing the new boy in his arms. From his dusty unlaced shoes to his jungle of gleaming red hair, Isidore Diamantstein was inert, dirty, and bedraggled.

“Oh, let him stand!” cried Miss Blake sharply. “Here, Diamantstein, what’s the matter with you? This is Miss Bailey, your new teacher.”

“How do you do, Isidore?” said Miss Bailey, as she stooped and took his hand. Then she added quickly to Miss Blake: “He seems feverish. Is he ill?” “Perhaps he is,” the other answered. “I never saw him so queer as he is this morning. You’d better let the doctor see him when he comes.”

But long before the eleven o’clock visit of the physician of the Board of Health, the illness of Isidore had reached its crisis. When Miss Bailey had established him in his new place he had seen nothing of his surroundings and had been quite deaf to the greetings, whether shy or jeering, with which the First-Reader Class had welcomed him. Left to his own devices, he had promptly laid his arms upon his desk and his head upon his arms. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. Isidore’s brilliant head still rested on his folded arms and Teacher felt that she must make some effort to comfort his wordless misery.

“Isidore,” she began, bending over him, “you won’t have to stay here very long. You may go back to Miss Blake in a few days if you are good. So now, dear boy, cheer up!” But as she patted the shoulder nearest to her a long sigh quivered through the little body.

“Now, don’t do that,” Miss Bailey urged. “Isidore, sit up nicely and let me look at you,” and, slipping her hand beneath the chin, she turned the face up to hers. She was prepared for tear-drenched eyes and trembling lips but she found neither. Isidore’s dark-lashed lids drooped heavily over his unseeing eyes, his head rolled loosely from side to side, and he began to slip, silently and unconsciously to the floor.

Teacher, in wild alarm, bore him to an open window and sent Patrick Brennan in flying search of the Principal. A great revulsion shook her whenever she looked at the blank little face, but she never guessed the truth. Patrick’s quest was short and the Principal’s first glance sufficient.