J. G. (Josiah Gilbert) Holland.

The Century illustrated monthly magazine (Volume v. 69) online

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Haw would open the door of his private
domain and cautiously survey the cus-
tomer. If it was a man, he would come
forward quite promptly; if a child, he
would call out, "Ah, there! " in the bold-
est way ; but if a woman, he would invol-
untarily step back and take a second or



two to nerve himself ; then, with a little
flush on his always clean-shaven face, and
softly rubbing his hands together, he would
gingerly emerge.

In all his life, since early childhood, he
had never known any women associates.
His mother dying when he was very young,
he had been brought up by a bookish, half-
hermit father, from whom he had inherited
a love of quiet and a gentle independence
of all human ties. People wondered how
such a man came to set his hand to busi-
ness. But Kane's Knob business was hardly
of the seething-whiiipool order, and Mr.
Haw had plenty of time for his housework
and reading, and, in its season, the culti-
vation of a bit of garden under his kitchen
windows. On pleasant Sundays he took
long walks to distant fields and woodlands,
sometimes bringing home a new plant or
insect for his neatly arranged collections.
Upon the shores of his peaceful life it is
true that the tidal waves of new spring and
fall stocks came sweeping in with such
power as to make him postpone his break-
fast dishes or forget his luncheon ; but in
a few hours everything would be settled in
place — the wall-paper rack sumptuously
full, and the other departments making a
brave display of new goods at popular
prices.

It was in spring and fall, too, that Mr.
Haw experienced his sorest trials, for then
it was that women came to buy wall-pa-
pers. When they came in pairs it was not
so dreadful, but when one came alone and
sat down, severely or playfully critical,
according to her temperament, while he
unrolled the various patterns and sought
out the borders that matched, the per-
spiration would start out on his partly bald
head, although a cold east wind might be
blowing, and his hands would tremble until




Drawn by A. I!. Hrost. Half-tone plate engraved by H. C. Merrill

'BEETLE, EH? WELL, I DON'T SEE HIDE NOR HAIR OF HIM.
MUST BE PRETTY WELL DOWN'-



he was glad to find refvige for them in
searching for still another style. Every
spring and fall, mopping his head and neck
in the privacy of his apartment, he would
vow to go out of the wall-paper business
at once and forever ; but as the season
was so soon over, and the money much
needed, he would forget his painful ex-
periences, and in due time again order
samples for the season's trade.

Mr. Haw had lived in Kane's Knob so
long that the settled inhabitants paid little
attention to him personally. He was good
for nothingin politics, andhe neversmoked,
drank, or gossiped, so men had little use



for him. And as he could not have gone out
to a tea-party or a church " social " without
wearing his sensibilities on his sleeve, so
to speak, kindly matrons grew tired of in-
viting him, and finally ceased to do so."

But to the summer boarder he was new
and odd and interesting. It was to a smart
youth of this genus that he became in-
debted for his new name, " Gee Haw,"
which proceeded to stick to him. And it
was a woman boarder who came one smn-
mer and pervaded his shop like a brisk
west wind, overhauling the books, some of
which were interestingly ancient, scofling
at the stationerv, which contained no " un-



940



THE CENTURY MAGAZINE



ruled," advising him as to the arrangement
of his windows, demanding to know how
he managed to hve in those back rooms,
and expressing her horror that he had never
even heard of entire-wheat bread.



And yet, as the season wore on, when-
ever bad weather or an excursion to some
distant point made a hiatus in the calls of
this brisk woman, Mr. Haw, instead of
wildly rejoicing, had a vague uncomfort-




Drawii hy A. li. Fr.Mt. Half-tone plate engraved by R. C. Collins
'WILL THERE BE ROOM IN THAT GREAT CITY FOR — FOR OUR IDEAL KITCHEN?'"



Mr. Haw dreaded her calls so much that
he came to fancy that the intense relief of
her departure more than atoned for the
dread. " She has gone — for to-day! Once
more I live and breathe and have my be-
ing! Thank Heaven!" were the thoughts
that flashed through his mind as soon as
the tinkling bell sounded its faint applause
to her receding footsteps.



able sensation of being "lost." Could it
be possible that he inissrd her ?

Miss Marcella White was one of those
women who make themselves missed in
one way or another. She was thirty-six
years old, with advanced ideas on dress
and food, and yet neat and comely in
appearance, and a crisp and incisive con-
tributor to the home columns of various



THE liKKAKING UP OF CAAi HAW



941



worthy publications. Learning that Mr.
Haw was his own houseiicepcr, sh« lent
him several instructive productions of her
pen such as she thought ajjprojjriate to his
needs — among them being " Death in the
Dish-cloth," " Dust and Doctors," " Satan
and Soda," "The Pie-Python," and other
alliterative and alarming themes.

Mr. Haw had thought himself a fairly
neat and capable housekeeper, but after
reading Miss White's stirring jiapjers, he
made it a point to rise extra early that he
might sweep and scrub and air with yet
more thoroughness, and in all possible ways
discourage the swarming microbes and
insidious bacilli which, according to Miss
White, were assailing him on all sides as
well as internally.

" I hope I shall be rich enough before
I die," she said to him one day while look-
ing over a book on architecture, " to have
my ideal kitchen : not a costly afTair, but
a pleasant, airy room with painted walls
and ceiling, a ventilator over the stove to
carry off smoke and smells, a nice lino-
leum floor, a marble-top cooking-table, the
latest thing in gas-ranges, and just a// the
agate and aluminum ware I can possibly
use."

" Most women would prefer silk gowns
and Paris bonnets, would they not ? " Mr.
Haw ventured to ask.

" Well, I 'm not most women," answered
Miss White.

After she went away, Mr. Haw looked
up aluminum and linoleum in his encyclo-
pedia without being aware of any motive
beyond a desire for knowledge, and was
vaguely pleased to learn that both were
within the scope of moderate means.

It was Miss White's second summer in
Kane's Knob, and she had become so
well acquainted with the inhabitants that
she thought nothing of expressing herself
freely on all subjects, personal and other-
wise ; and it was at a church supper that
she remarked to a neighboring tea-sip-
per: "It is strange that your Mr. Haw
ne7Yr mingles, in social affairs. He 's such
a dear, clean little man, and extremely in-
telligent."

Next day the tea-sipper's husband
dropped in for a cigar, and fired the com-
pliment at Mr. Haw— "just to see him
squirm," he reported to his wife.

Mr. Haw did squirm, and turned red to



his collar; and after his guffawing cus-
tomer had gone away, continued to feel
uncomfortable and, in fact, pained. He
was no/ "little" — he was certainly two
inches taller than Miss White; and, any-
how, such an extremely personal remark

— from a lady I He earnestly hoped and
believed that he had in no way in7>i/ed auch

— such shocking — familiarity.

A day or two later, when Miss White
called to consult a dictionary, Mr. Haw
was not only shy, but coldly so. He might
be slightly undersized and of small account
in the world, but he did not desire to be
regarded as a small, well-mannered poodle-
dog.

Miss White went away with a new im-
pression of Mr. Haw. " For a little man
he is really quite dignified — one of the old
courtly school, so rapidly disappearing,"
she said to herself.

It so happened that she had no business
at the book-store for several days, and Mr.
Haw began to wonder if he had in any
way offended her. He missed her. No
woman in Kane's Knob said such bright,
original things and gave such helpful sug-
gestions—ideas that lingered and led into
new paths of thought.

As he washed his dishes he, too, thought
of an ideal kitchen and the strange new-
pleasure of having a certain bright person
in it, cooking advanced forms of food.
And then at the boldness of such thoughts
he would shiver with shame.

It was at this time that a most humiliat-
ing calamity befell Mr. Haw. Whether
it was a Sunday indulgence in tinned
clams or the wildly raging storm sweeping
over the town that caused him to start
from his slumber, feverish and but half-
awake, may never be known. It is enough
that he hastily reached for a tumbler on
his dressing-table, eagerly drank its con-
tents, and immediately became possessed
of the awful consciousness that he had
swallowed a rare and extremely interesting
beetle which he had a few hours before
brought from the woods, intending to
classify it early in the morning before busi-
ness hours. It appeared to belong de-
cidedly to a water family, and he had
placed it in a half-filled tumbler on his
dressing-table. He did ficf remember pla-
cing a glass of drinking-water on the table.
He lighted his lamp and gave one look at
the tumbler from which he had drunk.



942



THE CENTURY MAGAZINE



The beetle was gone ! And those powerful,
well-remembered mandibles ! Mr. Haw
could feel them fastened low down in his
throat, with the tenacious grip of a beetle
oiprey — an outraged, mahgnant beetle who
was going to fight for his life! He could
feel those scraggly legs bracing themselves
for a still firmer hold. He coughed, gar-
gled, tried holding up his left arm while he
essayed to hit himself between the shoul-
ders with his right. He held his head low
down, opening his mouth very wide above
a basin of water, hoping to lure the crea-
ture to its native element. In vain ! What if
the thing were poison ? He fought against
swallowing, and yet his throat would spas-
modically close again and again, in-
creasing the horrible grip and scramble of
the monster.

Something must be done. He thought
of the town's one physician, Dr. Scott.
Hurrying into his trousers and shoes and
dashing into a voluminous mackintosh, he
fled forth into the storm. He pounded
upon the doctor's door again and again
before he could make himself heard above
the uproar of the elements. At length a
frightened woman's voice screamed from
an upper window, " Who are you, and
what do you want ? "

" Geor' Haw. I wa' see 'octor," he an-
swered, trying to tax his throat as little as
possible.

" Oh, Mr. Haw ? Well, doctor has gone
to Brockville, and won't be home until
morning. Anything serious ? "

But Mr. Haw was already in the street.
He must see some helpful human being at
once. There was Doc Butler— called
" Doc " because he knew something about
sick horses and cattle and could pull a
tooth at a pinch. He hved in the suburbs,
but Mr. Haw was soon at his door, beat-
ing upon it hand and foot. Doc had just
settled down in comfort after setting out
tubs, fixing rain-troughs, and getting a
portion of the shower inside his collar, and
he came hastily to the door in an unami-
able state of mind.

" What the blank do you want ? " he
demanded.

" I 've swallowed a water-bug — beetle —
some kind — it 's fast in my throat." Mr.
Haw's voice was tremulous and indistinct
from his effort to disturb the insect as little
as possible.

" Swallered a beetle!'' shouted Doc.



"And who the blank be you — swallerin'
beetles this time of night ? "

A lightning flash here revealed the an-
guished face of the visitor.

"Gee Haw! Well, of all the— But
come in — come in ! "

" Don't disturb family," pleaded the poor
wretch, sinking into a chair.

Doc lighted a candle and proceeded to
pour its radiance into Mr. Haw's widely
opened mouth.

" Beetle, eh ? Well, I don't see hide nor
hair of him. Must be pretty well down."

Mr. Haw placed his finger on his throat,
indicating the seat of his affliction. Doc
manipulated the spot gently. " Seems as
if I could feel him about there. Can't you
get him down ? Tried a crust of bread ? "

Mr. Haw shook his head. " Won't let
go — mandibles clinched."

" What 's clinched ? Well, now, hold
your head over— so — and open your throat
wide 's you can. Now, then ! " And Doc
delivered his subject such a blow between
the shoulders that he nearly felled him to
the floor. He set him up and repeated the
whack.

" No go, eh ? Well, we '11 try—"

A head now appeared in the bedroom
door— the head of Mrs. Butler.

"For pity's sake, Jim, what 's the
matter ? "

" Gee Haw 's up and swallered a beetle
— or tried to. Sticks in his throat," an-
swered Doc, with great calmness.

" For pity's sake ! Can't you do some-
thing for him ? "

" Ain't I doing ? " answered Doc, sur-
veying his patient meditatively. " If you
was only a cow, now, I could put my hand
down and grab him out in no time. Or, I
could take hold— so— and squash him."
Mr. Haw here shrank visibly. " But you
ain't a cow." Mr. Haw mentally wished
that he was.

" Wake up little Jen," commanded Doc,
wheeHng toward the face in the door.
" Her hand 's no bigger than a frog's—
slie can reach him."

" Well, for pity's sake ! " repeated Mrs.
Doc, withdrawing her head.

Then followed sounds of hastily donned
apparel, a child's sleepy whines and ex-
postulations, and presently the mother
came out, bearing little Jen in nightgown
and tousled hair.

" Now, Sissy," began Doc, in a coaxing



Till': BRICAKING UI' OF Gi:i-: HAW



943



voice, "poor (lee Haw has swallered a —
a pretty little bug, and it 's sorter stickin'
in his throat, and we want you to i)Ut in
your nice little hand and pull him out.
Open your mouth, Haw, as wide 's you
can. Now, Jen ! "

Little Jen gave one look and then snug-
gled into her mother's neck.

" I 's 'fraid of Gee Haw," she whim-
pered.

"Aw, Jen," said her father, taking her
in his arms and kissing her. " You don't
want poor Gee Haw to get sick and die,
do you? 'Cause then you could n't run
over to his store in the mornin' and buy
a stick of candy big as your arm. You 've
got 'em that big, hain't ye. Gee Haw? "

Mr. Haw was so demoralized that he
nodded in the affirmative.

Jen, sorely tempted, extended her hand
toward the yawning mouth and then drew
back.

" I 's 'fraid he '11 bite."

" Aw, he won't bite. He likes little girls
awful well, but he don't like 'em bad
enough to eat 'em — ha! ha! And just
think of the candy — big as your arm ! "

" And you can wear your new pink dress
and carry ma's parasol when you go after
the candy — bright and early in the morn-
ing," encouraged the mother.

"Just put your little hand 'way down,"
coaxed Doc, "and when you feel some-
thing smooth and round, — like a nice little
bug, —just jerk him out. 'T won't take but
a jiffy."

Little Jen shut her small mouth very
tight, and bravely thrust her small hand
into Mr. Haw's throat. He wriggled and
choked and promptly rejected, so to speak,
the little hand.

" Did you feel him. Sissy ? " asked her
father, anxiously.

" Me feeled him — but he 's so slipp'ry."

" Try once more, darlin', and you shall
have two sticks — two monstrous sticks,"
urged her father.

The second trial ended like the first, and
Mr. Haw groaned in despair.

" Can you breathe all right ? " asked
Doc.

" Y-e-s," admitted Mr. Haw, doubtfully.

"Then there 's nothing to do but go
home and keep quiet until Scott comes
back. I hain't got any sort of instrument
for human chokers, and I ain't goin' to try
nothin' more, for I might do more harm



than good. Come on, I '11 go home with
y(ju, and stay until yrju can get Scott."

"Thank you," said Mr. Haw, grateful
for any c omftanionshij), and staggering to
his feet.

A wail burst fr<jm little Jen. "'I'an't
me have n-o-o tandy ? "

Mr. Haw turned to her and nodtled, and
measured many invisible sticks of sweet-
ness in the air.

The rain still poured. Under Doc's
umbrella the two men took their way as
speedily as possible to the abode of the
bookseller. Mr. Haw was shaking with
cold and fright, and, as he walked, the water
in his low shoes gurgled uncomfortably
about his stockingless feet.

" The first thing to do is to get dry and
warm. A chill may be worse 'n a choke,
and you 've no call to have both," said
Doc ; and treating the faintly struggling
little man as if he were an infant, he dis-
robed him and, rubbing him from head to
toes until he appeared ready to burst into
flames, bundled him about with all the
blankets and quilts he could lay hands on,
and placed him in his high-backed easy-
chair.

" Better to set up than to lay down, you
know ; and now if you '11 take a swaller —
about two fingers neat — " and Doc ex-
tended a flat bottle half filled with an
amber liquid.

"Oh, no, I never take — I dare not at-
tempt — to swallow anything," moaned
Mr. Haw.

" Might kind of let it trickle down," said
Doc, coaxingly. " Best thing to knock a
chill you ever see — and you don't want no
chill, man ! "

Mr. Haw obediently took a mouthful
from the flask and permitted it to trickle.
Entirely unused to such strong liquids, he
began to choke and strangle.

" Han'k'chief ! " he gasped, pointing to
a coat hanging near the dressing-table.

Doc sprang to the coat, and as he felt
in its various pockets his eyes rested casu-
ally on the dressing-table and settled into
a stare.

" ^^'as your bug in a tumbler of water ? "
he asked.

"Yes, sir; unfortunately."

" Unfortunately nothing ! ^^'hat do you
call this thing ? " and Doc lifted the glass
from behind Mr. Haw's Sunday hat and
held it so closely before that gentleman's



944



THE CENTURY MAGAZINE



eyes that he had to draw back in order to
see it clearly.

"Oh — my — Lord!" gasped Mr. Haw.

" Is that the critter? " demanded Doc.

" The very one ! And he 's not in my
throat — after all ? " Mr. Haw gazed upon
the bug with an expression of ecstatic
relief.

"You 're a nice one!" glowered Doc,
setting the glass on the table and standing
before his patient with feet wide apart and
hands on hips.

"Eh?" said Mr. Haw, with the smile
of totally relaxed nerves.

" You 're a Jiice one ! Pretendin' to choke
to death over a drop of whisky, while all the
time you 've got 'em — and got 'em bad."

" Got — what ? " questioned Mr. Haw,
feebly.

"Jim-jams, snakes in your boots, mud
turtles in your throat, delirium trimmins —
whatever you want to call 'em, Mr. Gee
Haw!"

Mr. Haw slowly became aware of his
terrible position.

" Shuttin' yourself up here so mighty sly
and swiggin' it down all by yourself ! I 've
heared of sech cases, but I 'd never dremp
it oi you, Gee Haw."

Mr. Haw suddenly sat up very straight.

"Mr. Butler — you — you dog.'" he
shouted, throwing aside his blankets. " Do
you dare to insinuate that I am a drinking
man? Never, sir! never! Look at me!
Do I look like a drinking man ? Search
these premises — leave nothing unexam-
ined ! Those bottles, sir, contain, respec-
tively, bay-rum, — for external use exclu-
sively, — a preparation for the extermination
of moths, ammonia for the bath, chloroform
for the humane killing of insects, and — and
a harmless and, I may truthfully add, in-
effectual hair restorative. In the kitchen
you will find, sir, if you will kindly look,
a small jug of vinegar and a bottle of
blacking. And I defy you, sir, to find any
other bottle or jug or smell in this establish-
ment, in support of your most uncalled-for
— your most vile — accusation."

Doc stared at the glowing orator for a
moment before he asked slowly : " Then
what in time do you mean — tearin' round
town at midnight — in a storm like this —
rousin' people from their beds with your
bug-swallerin' ? "

Mr. Haw calmed himself with a great
effort.



" Mr. Butler, I started up from sound
sleep very suddenly, and, feeling thirsty,
reached, mechanically and only partly
awake, for the glass of drinking-water
which I usually place on the table here,
close at hand, but which even now I do
not remember placing there to-night. After
hastily drinking, I felt what I considered
to be a distinctly foreign substance in my
throat ; and hghting the lamp, I saw the
one glass — and the beetle gone. I had
every reason, sir, to infer that he was in my
throat, and as I had not yet classified him,
the uncomfortable thought that he might
be a member of a venomous family — "

Doc, who had choked back several con-
vulsions during this earnest recital, now
burst into screams of laughter. But for the
pouring rain and crashing thunder he might
have aroused the neighborhood. Poor Mr.
Haw collapsed into his blankets and buried
his face in his hands.

" Streakin' it half a mile — in the dead of
night — in a storm like this ! And me wakin'
up httle Jen — and she rammin' her little
hand — " Doc gave up all further attempts
at speech and fell into a chair, feebly
shrieking.

Mr. Haw roused himself, reached for
his dressing-gown, and thrusting his feet
into his slippers, caught up the lamp with
a polite apology, and went into the shop.
He returned in a moment with a large
package neatly wrapped in white paper.

"I regret, sir," he said stiffly, "that I
allowed your little daughter to infer that
the sticks were as large as her arm. These
are the largest I have, but I trust I have
made up the difference in quantity. And
for your own kindness I shall be glad to
make most ample — "

" Oh, don't mention it," moaned Doc,
preparing to go.

" I shall see that you are repaid," in-
sisted Mr. Haw. " And I must ask of you
a still greater kindness : will you most
generously refrain from making any — any
public allusion to this humiliating occur-
rence ? You cannot realize how terribly
I-"

" Oh, don't worry, old fellow ! I '11 try
to keep it. And thanks for the candy —
enough to last a year, I should say. Good
night. Don't get another chill ! And look
out you don't swaller another — " Doc
converted a snort into a cough, and took
himself away.



THE BREAKING UP OF GI-E HAW



945



Alas! before twelve hours had passed
Mr. Haw felt himself a disgraced and
ruined man. 'l"he people who came into
his shop either spoke openly of his nif^ht's
experience or, what was worse, looked at
him with wide and silent grins. And when-
ever he heard long and loud guffaws borne
along the summer breeze, he shuddered
and grew hot to his shoes, well knowing
that to some new listener the affair was
being graphically recited.

" I will go away ; I will leave this place
forever!" he vowed to himself again and
again during that interminable day.

He closed the shop at the earhest pos-
sible hour and hastened into the refreshing
privacy of his rooms and to some expedi-
tious packing.

" I have enough money to keep me for
a while. I will write to Squire Billings
soon and have him dispose of everything,
at no matter what price. Gracious Hea-
ven ! I would rather live in the woods — in
a cave — on wild roots — than stay here
another day." Such were the thoughts
with which he fiercely punctuated his hur-
ried preparations.

Later, as he sat at a hastily prepared
supper, but with small appetite, considering
the point to which he should fly on the
wings of the night train, the outer door of
the shop was vigorously shaken.

" I shall not respond. Not another grin-
ning human, man, woman, or child, shall
lay eyes on me again in this town!" he
muttered. Yet, in spite of his brave words,
his hands trembled shghtly as he buttered
his bread.

After two more rattling shakes the per-
son, or persons, left the door, and Mr. Haw
drew a breath of relief, which ended, how-
ever, in a start'and a posture of rigid at-
tention as footsteps hurried along the side
path which led to his kitchen entrance.

"Oh, we '11 find him somewhere, dear,"
$ he heard a brisk and cheerful voice ex-
claim. "Just come right along with me!
My, what a trim little garden ! And mignon-
ette! Who would ever imagine — " and
then came a smart knock on the kitchen
door.

Mr. Haw remained motionless.

Another knock, still smarter.

Mr. Haw, rejoicing that he had shoved
the bolt before sitting down to supper, held
his breath.

"Three times and then out!" laughed



the cheery voice, and then came such a
knock that the di.shes in the wall cupboard
rattled.

A cough which had been perversely tick-
ling Mr. Haw's throat now burst forth,
and he was undone.

"Oh, Mr. Haw, please!" called the
voice. "Here 's a little cherub who has
had no birthday present, and I 've prom-



Online LibraryJ. G. (Josiah Gilbert) HollandThe Century illustrated monthly magazine (Volume v. 69) → online text (page 115 of 118)