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Three Episodes In The Life Of Mr Cowlishaw, Dentist
by [?]


They all happened on the same day. And that day was a Saturday, the red Saturday on which, in the unforgettable football match between Tottenham Hotspur and the Hanbridge F.C. (formed regardless of expense in the matter of professionals to take the place of the bankrupt Knype F.C.), the referee would certainly have been murdered had not a Five Towns crowd observed its usual miraculous self-restraint.

Mr Cowlishaw–aged twenty-four, a fair-haired bachelor with a weak moustache–had bought the practice of the retired Mr Rapper, a dentist of the very old school. He was not a native of the Five Towns. He came from St Albans, and had done the deal through an advertisement in the Dentists’ Guardian, a weekly journal full of exciting interest to dentists. Save such knowledge as he had gained during two preliminary visits to the centre of the world’s earthenware manufacture, he knew nothing of the Five Towns; practically, he had everything to learn. And one may say that the Five Towns is not a subject that can be “got up” in a day.

His place of business–or whatever high-class dentists choose to call it–in Crown Square was quite ready for him when he arrived on the Friday night: specimen “uppers” and “lowers” and odd teeth shining in their glass case, the new black-and-gold door-plate on the door, and the electric filing apparatus which he had purchased, in the operating-room. Nothing lacked there. But his private lodgings were not ready; at least, they were not what he, with his finicking Albanian notions, called ready, and, after a brief altercation with his landlady, he went off with a bag to spend the night at the Turk’s Head Hotel. The Turk’s Head is the best hotel in Hanbridge, not excepting the new Hotel Metropole (Limited, and German-Swiss waiters). The proof of its excellence is that the proprietor, Mr Simeon Clowes, was then the Mayor of Hanbridge, and Mrs Clowes one of the acknowledged leaders of Hanbridge society.

Mr Cowlishaw went to bed. He was a good sleeper; at least, he was what is deemed a good sleeper in St Albans. He retired about eleven o’clock, and requested one of the barmaids to instruct the boots to arouse him at 7 a.m. She faithfully promised to do so.

He had not been in bed five minutes before he heard and felt an earthquake. This earthquake seemed to have been born towards the north-east, in the direction of Crown Square, and the shock seemed to pass southwards in the direction of Knype. The bed shook; the basin and ewer rattled together like imperfect false teeth in the mouth of an arrant coward; the walls of the hotel shook. Then silence! No cries of alarm, no cries for help, no lamentations of ruin! Doubtless, though earthquakes are rare in England, the whole town had been overthrown and engulfed, and only Mr Cowlishaw’s bed left standing. Conquering his terror, Mr Cowlishaw put his head under the clothes and waited.

He had not been in bed ten minutes before he heard and felt another earthquake. This earthquake seemed to have been born towards the north-east, in the direction of Crown Square, and to be travelling southwards; and Mr Cowlishaw noticed that it was accompanied by a strange sound of heavy bumping. He sprang courageously out of bed and rushed to the window. And it so happened that he caught the earthquake in the very act of flight. It was one of the new cars of the Five Towns Electric Traction Company, Limited, guaranteed to carry fifty-two passengers. The bumping was due to the fact that the driver, by a too violent application of the brake, had changed the form of two of its wheels from circular to oval. Such accidents do happen, even to the newest cars, and the inhabitants of the Five Towns laugh when they hear a bumpy car as they laugh at Charley’s Aunt. The car shot past, flashing sparks from its overhead wire and flaming red and green lights of warning, and vanished down the main thoroughfare. And gradually the ewer and basin ceased their colloquy. The night being the night of the 29th December, and exceedingly cold, Mr Cowlishaw went back to bed.