A True Story.

A poem by Thomas Hood

Of all our pains, since man was curst,
I mean of body, not the mental,
To name the worst, among the worst,
The dental sure is transcendental;
Some bit of masticating bone,
That ought to help to clear a shelf,
But lets its proper work alone,
And only seems to gnaw itself;
In fact, of any grave attack
On victual there is little danger,
'Tis so like coming to the rack,
As well as going to the manger.

Old Hunks - it seemed a fit retort
Of justice on his grinding ways -
Possessed a grinder of the sort,
That troubled all his latter days.
The best of friends fall out, and so
His teeth had done some years ago,
Save some old stumps with ragged root,
And they took turn about to shoot;
If he drank any chilly liquor,
They made it quite a point to throb;
But if he warmed it on the hob,
Why then they only twitched the quicker.

One tooth - I wonder such a tooth
Had never killed him in his youth -
One tooth he had with many fangs,
That shot at once as many pangs,
It had a universal sting;
One touch of that ecstatic stump
Could jerk his limbs and make him jump,
Just like a puppet on a string;
And what was worse than all, it had
A way of making others bad.
There is, as many know, a knack,
With certain farming undertakers,
And this same tooth pursued their track,
By adding achers still to achers!

One way there is, that has been judged
A certain cure, but Hunks was loth
To pay the fee, and quite begrudged
To lose his tooth and money both;
In fact, a dentist and the wheel
Of Fortune are a kindred cast,
For after all is drawn, you feel
It's paying for a blank at last;
So Hunks went on from week to week,
And kept his torment in his cheek;
Oh! how it sometimes set him rocking,
With that perpetual gnaw - gnaw - gnaw,
His moans and groans were truly shocking,
And loud, - altho' he held his jaw.
Many a tug he gave his gum
And tooth, but still it would not come,
Tho' tied to string by some firm thing,
He could not draw it, do his best,
By draw'rs, altho' he tried a chest.

At last, but after much debating,
He joined a score of mouths in waiting,
Like his, to have their troubles out.
Sad sight it was to look about
At twenty faces making faces,
With many a rampant trick and antic,
For all were very horrid cases,
And made their owners nearly frantic.
A little wicket now and then
Took one of these unhappy men,
And out again the victim rushed,
While eyes and mouth together gushed;
At last arrived our hero's turn,
Who plunged his hands in both his pockets,
And down he sat, prepared to learn
How teeth are charmed to quit their sockets.

Those who have felt such operations,
Alone can guess the sort of ache,
When his old tooth began to break
The thread of old associations;
It touched a string in every part,
It had so many tender ties;
One cord seemed wrenching at his heart,
And two were tugging at his eyes;
"Bone of his bone," he felt, of course,
As husbands do in such divorce;
At last the fangs gave way a little,
Hunks gave his head a backward jerk,
And lo! the cause of all this work,
Went - where it used to send his victual!

The monstrous pain of this proceeding
Had not so numbed his miser wit,
But in this slip he saw a hit
To save, at least, his purse from bleeding;
So when the dentist sought his fees,
Quoth Hunks, "Let's finish, if you please,"
"How, finish! why, it's out!" - "Oh no -
'Tis you are out, to argue so;
I'm none of your before-hand tippers.
My tooth is in my head no doubt,
But, as you say you pulled it out,
Of course it's there - between your nippers,"
"Zounds, sir! d'ye think I'd sell the truth
To get a fee? no, wretch, I scorn it!"
But Hunks still asked to see the tooth,
And swore by gum! he had not drawn it.

His end obtained, he took his leave,
A secret chuckle in his sleeve;
The joke was worthy to produce one,
To think, by favor of his wit
How well a dentist had been bit
By one old stump, and that a loose one!
The thing was worth a laugh, but mirth
Is still the frailest thing on earth:
Alas! how often when a joke
Seems in our sleeve, and safe enough,
There comes some unexpected stroke
And hangs a weeper on the cuff!

Hunks had not whistled half a mile,
When, planted right against a stile,
There stood his foeman, Mike Mahoney,
A vagrant reaper, Irish born,
That helped to reap our miser's corn,
But had not helped to reap his money,
A fact that Hunks remembered quickly;
His whistle all at once was quelled,
And when he saw how Michael held
His sickle, he felt rather sickly.

Nine souls in ten, with half his fright,
Would soon have paid the bill at sight,
But misers (let observers watch it)
Will never part with their delight
Till well demanded by a hatchet -
They live hard - and they die to match it.
Thus Hunks prepared for Mike's attacking,
Resolved not yet to pay the debt,
But let him take it out in hacking;
However, Mike began to stickle
In words before he used the sickle;
But mercy was not long attendant:
From words at last he took to blows,
And aimed a cut at Hunks's nose,
That made it what some folks are not -
A member very independent.

Heaven knows how far this cruel trick
Might still have led, but for a tramper
That came in danger's very nick,
To put Mahoney to the scamper.
But still compassion met a damper;
There lay the severed nose, alas!
Beside the daisies on the grass,
"Wee, crimson-tipt" as well as they,
According to the poet's lay:
And there stood Hunks, no sight for laughter.
Away went Hodge to get assistance,
With nose in hand, which Hunks ran after,
But somewhat at unusual distance.
In many a little country place
It is a very common case
To have but one residing doctor,
Whose practice rather seems to be
No practice, but a rule of three,
Physician - surgeon - drug-decoctor;

Thus Hunks was forced to go once more
Where he had ta'en his to t' before.
His mere name made the learned man hot, -
"What! Hunks again within my door!
I'll pull his nose"; quoth Hunks, "You cannot."
The doctor looked and saw the case
Plain as the nose not on his face.
"Oh! hum - ha - yes - I understand."
But then arose a long demur,
For not a finger would he stir
Till he was paid his fee in hand;
That matter settled, there they were,
With Hunks well strapped upon his chair.

The opening of a surgeon's job -
His tools, a chestful or a drawerful -
Are always something very awful,
And give the heart the strangest throb;
But never patient in his funks
Looked half so like a ghost as Hunks,
Or surgeon half so like a devil
Prepared for some infernal revel:
His huge black eye kept rolling, rolling,
Just like a bolus in a box:
His fury seemed above controlling,
He bellowed like a hunted ox:
"Now, swindling wretch, I'll show thee how
We treat such cheating knaves as thou;
Oh! sweet is this revenge to sup;
I have thee by the nose - it's now
My turn - and I will turn it up."

Guess how the miser liked the scurvy
And cruel way of venting passion;
The snubbing folks in this new fashion
Seemed quite to turn him topsy-turvy;
He uttered prayers, and groans, and curses,
For things had often gone amiss
And wrong with him before, but this
Would be the worst of all reverses!
In fancy he beheld his snout
Turned upwards like a pitcher's spout;
There was another grievance yet,
And fancy did not fail to show it,
That he must throw a summerset,
Or stand upon his head to blow it.

And was there then no argument
To change the doctor's vile intent,
And move his pity? - yes, in truth,
And that was - paying for the tooth.
"Zounds! pay for such a stump! I'd rather - "
But here the menace went no farther,
For with his other ways of pinching,
Hunks had a miser's love of snuff.
A recollection strong enough
To cause a very serious flinching;
In short, he paid and had the feature
Replaced as it was meant by nature;
For tho' by this 'twas cold to handle
(No corpse's could have felt so horrid),
And white just like an naked candle,
The doctor deemed and proved it too,
That noses from the nose will do
As well as noses from the forehead;
So, fixed by din of rag and lint,
The part was bandaged up and muffled.
The chair unfastened, Hunks rose,
And shuffled off, for once unshuffled;
And as he went, these words he snuffled -
"Well, this is 'paying thro' the nose.'"

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