AUNTIE TOOTHACHE 1103
shade ; I looked at the movement, and I felt an icy-cold blast.
On the floor sat a figure, long and thin, as when a child draws on a slate with a pencil, something which shall represent a man : a single thin stroke is the body, two strokes are arms, the legs are also two strokes, the head is many-cornered.
Soon the figure became more distinct; it got a kind of cloak, very thin, very fine, but it showed that it was a woman.
I heard a buzzing. Was it she, or the wind buzzing like a hornet in the window crack. No, it was herself, Mrs. Toothache ! her terrible Satanic Majesty, God preserve and save us from her visit!
' It is good to be here,' she buzzed, ' here are good quarters, boggy ground, mossy ground. Mosquitoes have buzzed here with poison in their sting, now I have the sting. It must be sharpened on human teeth. They shine so white as he lies here in bed. They have defied sweet and sour, hot and cold, nutshells and plum stones ! but I shall shake them, feed the root with draughts, give them cold in their feet.' That wras frightful talk, and a terrible guest.
' So you are a poet ! ' said she; ' I shall make poems about you in all the metres of pain ! I shall put iron and steel in your body, put strings in all your nerves.'
It seemed as if a glowing awl was pushed into the cheekbone. I writhed and turned myself.
' An excellent toothache ! ' said she, * an organ to play on. A magnificent concert on the Jew's-harp, with kettledrums and trumpets, flutes, and the bassoon in the wisdom tooth. Great poet, great music ! '
She played up, and she looked horrible, even if one saw no more of her than the hand, the shadowy grey, icy-cold hand with the long thin fingers ; each of them was an instrument of torture. The thumb and the forefinger had a knife-blade and a screw, the middle finger ended in a pointed awl, the next one was a gimlet, and the little finger squirted mosquito venom.
' I shall teach you metres,' said she. * Great poets shall have great toothaches ; little poets, little toothaches !'
1 Oh, let me be little,' I begged. ' Let me not be at all I