This 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), 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 we,ak moustache - had bought the practice of the retired Mr. Rapper, a dentist of the very old school. His place of business - whatever high-class dentists choose to call it - was quite .ready for hjm when he arrived -at Hanbridge on a 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 filling apparatus, which he had purchased, in the operating-room. Nothing lacked there.
The next afternoon he sat in his beautiful new surgery and waited for dental sufferers to come to him from all quarters of the Five Towns. It need hardly be said that nobody came.
The mere fact that a new dentist has "set up" in a district is enough to cure all the toothache for miles around. The one martyr who might, perhaps, have paid him a visit and a fee did not show herself. This martyr was .Mrs. Simeon Clowes, the mayoress. By a curious chance Mr. Cowlishaw had observed the previous night that she was obviously in pain from her teeth or from a particular tooth. But she had doubtless gone, despite her toothache, to the football match with the Mayor. All the world had gone to the football match. Mr. Cowlishaw would have liked to go, but it would have been madness to leave the surgery on his opening day. So he sat and yawned, and gazed at the crowd crowding to the match at two o'clock, crowding back in the gloom al four o'clock; and at a quarter past five he was reading a full description of the carnage in the football edition of the Signal. Though Hanbridge had been defeated, it appeared from the Signal that Hanbridge was the better team, and that Ran-noch, the new Scottish centre-forward, had fought nobly for the town which had bought him so dear.
Mr. Cowlishaw was just dozing over the Signal when the door bell rang. With beating heart he retained his presence of mind, and said to himself that of course it could not possibly be a client. Even dentists who bought a practice ready-made never had a client on their first day. He heard the attendant go to the door, and then he heard the attendant saying, "I'll see, sir."
It was in fact, a patient. The servant, having asked Mr. Cowlishaw if Mr. Cowlishaw was at liberty, introduced the patient.
The patient was a tall, stiff, fair man of about thirty, with a tousled head, and in inelegant but durable clothing. He had a drooping moustache, which prevented Mr. Cowlishaw from adding his teeth up instantly.
- "Good afternoon, mister," said the patient abruptly.
- "Good afternoon," said Mr. Cowlishaw. "Have you... Can I..."
- "It's like this," said the patient, putting his hand in his waistcoat pocket.
- "Will, you kindly sit down," said Mr. Cowlishaw, turning on the light, and pointing to the chair of chairs.
- "It's like this," repeated the patient, doggedly. "You see these three teeth?"
- He displayed three very real teeth in a piece of reddened paper. As a spectacle, they were decidedly not appetizing, but Mr. Cow-Hshaw was hardened.
- "Really!" said Mr. Cowlishaw, impartially gazing on them.
- "They're my teeth," said the patient. And thereupon he opened his mouth wide and displayed, not without vanity, a widowed gum.
- "'ont 'eeth," he exclaimed, keeping his mouth open and omitting preliminary consonants.
- "Yes," said Mr. Cowlishaw, with a, dry inflection. "I saw that they were upper incisors. How did this all come about? An accident, I suppose?"
- "Well," said the man, "you may call it an accident; I don't. My name is Rannqch; centre-forward. Ye see? Were you at the match?"
Mr. Cowlishaw understood. He had no need of further explanation; he had read it all in the Signal. And so the chief victim of Tottenham Hotspur had come to him, just to him! This was luck! For Rannoch was, of course, the most celebrated man in the Five Towns, and the idol of the populace. He might have been M.P. had he chosen.
"Dear me!" Mr. Cowlishaw sympathized and he said again, pointing more firmly to the chair of chairs, "will you sit down?"
"I had 'em all picked up," Mr. Rannoch proceeded, ignoring the suggestion. "Because a bit of a scheme came into my head. And that's why I've come to you, as you're just a commencing dentist. Supposing you put these teeth on a bit of green velvet in the case in your window, with a big card to say that they're guaranteed to be my genuine teeth knocked out by that blighter of a Tottenham half-back, you'll have such a crowd that was never seen around your door. All the Five Towns'll come to see 'em. It'll be the biggest advertisement that you or any other dentist ever had. And you might put a little notice in the Signal saying that my teeth are on view at your premises; it would only cost you a shilling... I should expect you to furnish me with new teeth for nothing, ye see."
Assuredly the idea was an idea of genius. As an advertisement it would be indeed colossal and unique. Tens of thousands would gaze spellbound for hours at those relics of their idol, and every gazer would inevitably be familiarized with the name and address of Mr. Cowlishaw, and with the fact that Mr. Cowlishaw was dentist-in-chief to the heroical Rannoch. Unfortunately, in dentistry there is etiquette. Mr. Cowlishaw knew that he could not do this without sinning against professional etiquette.
"I'm sorry I can't fall in with your scheme," said he, "but I can't."
"But, man!" protested the Scotsman, "It's the greatest scheme that ever was."
"Yes," said Mr. Cowlishaw, "but it would be unprofessional."
Mr. Rannoch was himself a professional. "Oh, well," he said sarcastically, "if you're one of those amateurs -,"
"I'll put the job in as low as possible," said Mr. Cowlishaw, persuasively.
But Scotsmen are not to be persuaded like that.
Mr. Rannoch wrapped up his teeth and left.
(From "Tales of the Five Towns" by Arnold Bennett)
(to be continued)