Mrs. Belway walked to the door of the boys’ washroom, started to go in, and thought better of it.

“Willie?” she called. “Are you in there, Willie?”

Willie said he was. He was running the water in the basin.

“Is your nose bleeding badly?”

“Right smart,” Willie said. Mrs. Belway cleared her throat, put one hand on the door jam, said:

“I’m sorry I slapped you.”

There was a brief silence, then Willie’s voice, high, and somewhat plaintive:

“You shouldn’t have done it, Mrs. Belway.”

“No,” Mrs. Belway said. “I shouldn’t have. I know that now.”

“When I get slapped on the nose, my nose bleeds,” Willie informed her.

“Yes. I said I was sorry.” She paused for a moment.

“Still, you were pretty insolent.”

“Doesn’t make any difference,” Willie insisted. “I shouldn’t be slapped on the nose. On the rear, maybe. But not on the nose, ’cause it bleeds.”

“I’ll remember that next time,” Mrs. Belway said. She listened to the sound of running water.

“Willie?” There was no answer. “Are you a bleeder?”

“I’m bleeding right strong,” Willie said.

“I don’t mean that. I mean, do you have trouble getting it stopped? What I mean is, does your blood not clot or something?”

“The clots fall off,” Willie said.

“Then it does clot?”

“Yes,” he admitted reluctantly. “But they fall off.”

Mrs. Belway breathed a sigh of relief.

“Well—I’m going to go call your parents,” she said.

She went and called his parents.