笔者把这几页借来读了须臾间。今后自身把它刊登出来。 它的标题是： 牙痛姑妈 1
Where did we get this story? would you like to know?
We got it from the basket that the wastepaper is thrown into.
Many a good and rare book has been taken to the delicatessen store and
the grocer’s, not to be read, but to be used as wrapping paper for
starch and coffee, beans, for salted herring, butter, and cheese. Used
writing paper has also been found suitable.
Frequently one throws into the wastepaper basket what ought not to go
I know a grocer’s assistant, the son of a delicatessen store owner. He
has worked his way up from serving in the cellar to serving in the front
shop; he is a well-read person, his reading consisting of the printed
and written matter to be found on the paper used for wrapping. He has an
interesting collection, consisting of several important official
documents from the wastepaper baskets of busy and absent-minded
officials, a few confidential letters from one lady friend to another –
reports of scandal which were not to go further, not to be mentioned by
a soul. He is a living salvage institution for more than a little of our
literature, and his collection covers a wide field, he has the run of
his parents’ shop and that of his present master and has there saved
many a book, or leaves of a book, well worth reading twice.
He has shown me his collection of printed and written matter from the
wastepaper basket, the most valued items of which have come from the
delicatessen store. A couple of leaves from a large composition book lay
among the collection; the unusually clear and neat handwriting attracted
my attention at once.
“This was written by the student,” he said, “the student who lived
opposite here and died about a month ago. He suffered terribly from
toothache, as one can see. It is quite amusing to read. This is only a
small part of what he wrote; there was a whole book and more besides. My
parents gave the student’s landlady half a pound of green soap for it.
This is what I have been able to save of it.”
I borrowed it, I read it, and now I tell it.
The title was:
Aunty gave me sweets when I was little. My teeth could stand it then; it
didn’t hurt them. Now I am older, am a student, and still she goes on
spoiling me with sweets. She says I am a poet.
I have something of the poet in me, but not enough. Often when I go
walking along the city streets, it seems to me as if I am walking in a
big library; the houses are the bookshelves; and every floor is a shelf
with books. There stands a story of everyday life; next to it is a good
old comedy, and there are works of all scientific branches, bad
literature and good reading. I can dream and philosophize among all this
There is something of the poet in me, but not enough. No doubt many
people have just as much of it in them as I, though they do not carry a
sign or a necktie with the word “Poet” on it. They and I have been given
a divine gift, a blessing great enough to satisfy oneself, but
altogether too little to be portioned out again to others. It comes like
a ray of sunlight and fills one’s soul and thoughts; it comes like the
fragrance of a flower, like a melody that one knows and yet cannot
remember from where.
The other evening I sat in my room and felt an urge to read, but I had
no book, no paper. Just then a leaf, fresh and green, fell from the lime
tree, and the breeze carried it in through the window to me. I examined
the many veins in it; a little insect was crawling across them, as if it
were making a thorough study of the leaf. This made me think of man’s
wisdom: we also crawl about on a leaf; our knowledge is limited to that
only, and yet we unhesitatingly deliver a lecture on the whole big tree
- the root, the trunk, and the crown – the great tree comprised of God,
the world, and immortality – and of all this we know only a little leaf!
As I was sitting there, I received a visit from Aunty Mille. I showed
her the leaf with the insect and told her of my thoughts in connection
with these. And her eyes lit up.
“You are a poet!” she said. “Perhaps the greatest we have. If I should
live to see this, I would go to my grave gladly. Ever since the brewer
Rasmussen’s funeral you have amazed me with your powerful imagination.”
So said Aunty Mille, and she then kissed me.
Who was Aunty Mille, and who was Rasmussen the brewer?
We children always called our mother’s aunt “Aunty”; we had no other
name for her.
She gave us jam and sweets, although they were very injurious to our
teeth; but the dear children were her weakness, she said. It was cruel
to deny them a few sweets, when they were so fond of them. And that’s
why we loved Aunty so much.
She was an old maid; as far back as I can remember, she was always old.
Her age never seemed to change.
In earlier years she had suffered a great deal from toothache, and she
always spoke about it; and so it happened that her friend, the brewer
Rasmussen, who was a great wit, called her Aunty Toothache.
He had retired from the brewing business some years before and was then
living on the interest of his money. He frequently visited Aunty; he was
older than she. He had no teeth at all – only a few black stumps. When a
child, he had eaten too much sugar, he told us children, and that’s how
he came to look as he did.
Aunty could surely never have eaten sugar in her childhood, for she had
the most beautiful white teeth. She took great care of them, and she did
not sleep with them at night! – said Rasmussen the brewer. We children
knew that this was said in malice, but Aunty said he did not mean
anything by it.
One morning, at the breakfast table, she told us of a terrible dream she
had had during the night, in which one of her teeth had fallen out.
“That means,” she said, “that I shall lose a true friend!”
“Was it a false tooth?” asked the brewer with a chuckle. “If so, it can
only mean that you will lose a false friend!”
“You are an insolent old man!” said Aunty, angrier than I had seen her
before or ever have since.
She later told us that her old friend had only been teasing her; he was
the finest man on earth, and when he died he would become one of God’s
little angels in heaven.
I thought a good deal of this transformation, and wondered if I would be
able to recognize him in this new character.
When Aunty and he had been young, he had proposed to her. She had
settled down to think it over, had thought too long, and had become an
old maid, but always remained his true friend.
And then Brewer Rasmussen died. He was taken to his grave in the most
expensive hearse and was followed by a great number of folks, including
people with orders and in uniform.
Aunty stood dressed in mourning by the window, together with all of us
children, except our little brother, whom the stork had brought a week
before. When the hearse and the procession had passed and the street was
empty, Aunty wanted to go away from the window, but I did not want to; I
was waiting for the angel, Rasmussen the brewer; surely he had by now
become one of God’s bewinged little children and would appear.
“Aunty,” I said, “don’t you think that he will come now? Or that when
the stork again brings us a little brother, he’ll then bring us the
Aunty was quite overwhelmed by my imagination, and said, “That child
will become a great poet!” And this she kept repeating all the time I
went to school, and even after my confirmation and, yes, still does now
that I am a student.
She was, and is, to me the most sympathetic of friends, both in my
poetical troubles and dental troubles, for I have attacks of both.
“Just write down all your thoughts,” she said, “and put them in the
table drawer! That’s what Jean Paul did; he became a great poet, though
I don’t admire him; he does not excite one. You must be exciting! Yes,
you will be exciting!”
The night after she said this, I lay awake, full of longings and
anguish, with anxiety and fond hopes to become the great poet that Aunty
saw and perceived in me; I went through all the pains of a poet! But
there is an even greater pain – toothache – and it was grinding and
crushing me; I became a writhing worm, with a bag of herbs and a mustard
“I know all about it, ” said Aunty. There was a sorrowful smile on her
lips, and her white teeth glistened.
But I must begin a new chapter in my own and my aunt’s story.
I had moved to a new flat and had been living there a month. I was
telling Aunty about it.
” I live with a quiet family; they pay no attention to me, even if I
ring three times. Besides, it is a noisy house, full of sounds and
disturbances caused by the weather, the wind, and the people. I live
just above the street gate; every carriage that drives out or in makes
the pictures on the walls move about. The gate bangs and shakes the
house as if there were an earthquake. If I am in bed, the shocks go
right through all my limbs, but that is said to be strengthening to the
nerves. If the wind blows, and it is always blowing in this country, the
long window hooks outside swing to and fro, and strike against the wall.
The bell on the gate to the neighbor’s yard rings with every gust of
“The people who live in the house come home at all hours, from late in
the evening until far into the night; the lodger just above me, who in
the daytime gives lessons on the trombone, comes home the latest and
does not go to bed before he has taken a little midnight promenade with
heavy steps and in iron heeled shoes.
“There are no double windows. There is a broken pane in my room, over
which the landlady has pasted some paper, but the wind blows through the
crack despite that and produces a sound similar to that of a buzzing
wasp. It is like the sort of music that makes one go to sleep. If at
last I fall asleep, I am soon awakened by the crowing of the cocks. From
the cellarman’s hencoop the cocks and hens announce that it will soon be
morning. The small ponies, which have no stable, but are tied up in the
storeroom under the staircase, kick against the door and the paneling as
they move about.
“The day dawns. The porter, who lives with his family in the attic,
comes thundering down the stairs; his wooden shoes clatter; the gate
bangs and the house shakes. And when all this is over, the lodger above
begins to occupy himself with gymnastic exercises; he lifts a heavy iron
ball in each hand, but he is not able to hold onto them, and they are
continually falling on the floor, while at the same time the young folks
in the house, who are going to school, come screaming with all their
might. I go to the window and open it to get some fresh air, and it is
most refreshing – when I can get it, and when the young woman in the
back building is not washing gloves in soapsuds, by which she earns her
livelihood. Otherwise it is a pleasant house, and I live with a quiet
This was the report I gave Aunty about my flat, though it was livelier
at the time, for the spoken word has a fresher sound than the written.
“You are a poet!” cried Aunty. “Just write down all you have said, and
you will be as good as Dickens! Indeed, to me, you are much more
interesting. You paint when you speak. You describe your house so that
one can see it. It makes one shudder. Go on with your poetry. Put some
living beings into it – people, charming people, especially unhappy
I wrote down my description of the house as it stands, with all its
sounds, its noises, but included only myself. There was no plot in it.
That came later.
It was during wintertime, late at night, after theater hours; it was
terrible weather; a snowstorm raged so that one could hardly move along.
Aunty had gone to the theater, and I went there to take her home; it was
difficult for one to get anywhere, to say nothing of helping another.
All the hiring carriages were engaged. Aunty lived in a distant section
of the town, while my dwelling was close to the theater. Had this not
been the case, we would have had to take refuge in a sentry box for a
We trudged along in the deep snow while the snowflakes whirled around
us. I had to lift her, hold onto her, and push her along. Only twice did
we fall, but we fell on the soft snow.
We reached my gate, where we shook some of the snow from ourselves. On
the stairs, too, we shook some off, and yet there was still enough
almost to cover the floor of the anteroom.
We took off our overcoats and boots and what other clothes might be
removed. The landlady lent Aunty dry stockings and a nightcap; this she
would need, said the landlady, and added that it would be impossible for
my aunt to get home that night, which was true. Then she asked Aunty to
make use of her parlor, where she would prepare a bed for her on the
sofa, in front of the door that led into my room and that was always
kept locked. And so she stayed.
The fire burned in my stove, the tea urn was placed on the table, and
the little room became cozy, if not as cozy as Aunty’s own room, where
in the wintertime there are heavy curtains before the door, heavy
curtains before the windows, and double carpets on the floor, with three
layers of thick paper underneath. One sits there as if in a well-corked
bottle, full of warm air; still, as I have said, it was also cozy at my
place, while outside the wind was whistling.
Aunty talked and reminisced; she recalled the days of her youth; the
brewer came back; many old memories were revived.
She could remember the time I got my first tooth, and the family’s
delight over it. My first tooth! The tooth of innocence, shining like a
little drop of milk – the milk tooth!
When one had come, several more came, a whole rank of them, side by
side, appearing both above and below – the finest of children’s teeth,
though these were only the “vanguard,” not the real teeth, which have to
last one’s whole lifetime.
Then those also appeared, and the wisdom teeth as well, the flank men of
each rank, born in pain and great tribulation.
They disappear, too, sometimes every one of them; they disappear before
their time of service is up, and when the very last one goes, that is
far from a happy day; it is a day for mourning. And so then one
considers himself old, even if he feels young.
Such thoughts and talk are not pleasant. Yet we came to talk about all
this; we went back to the days of my childhood and talked and talked. It
was twelve o’clock before Aunty went to rest in the room near by.
“Good night, my sweet child,” she called. “I shall now sleep as if I
were in my own bed.”
And she slept peacefully; but otherwise there was no peace either in the
house or outside. The storm rattled the windows, struck the long,
dangling iron hooks against the house, and rang the neighbor’s back-yard
bell. The lodger upstairs had come home. He was still taking his little
nightly tour up and down the room; he then kicked off his boots and went
to bed and to sleep; but he snores so that anyone with good ears can
hear him through the ceiling.
I found no rest, no peace. The weather did not rest, either; it was
lively. The wind howled and sang in its own way; my teeth also began to
be lively, and they hummed and sang in their way. An awful toothache was
There was a draft from the window. The moon shone in upon the floor; the
light came and went as the clouds came and went in the stormy weather.
There was a restless change of light and shadow, but at last the shadow
on the floor began to take shape. I stared at the moving form and felt
an icy-cold wind against my face.
On the floor sat a figure, thin and long, like something a child would
draw with a pencil on a slate, something supposed to look like a person,
a single thin line forming the body, another two lines the arms, each
leg being but a single line, and the head having a polygonal shape.
The figure soon became more distinct; it had a very thin, very fine sort
of cloth draped around it, clearly showing that the figure was that of a
I heard a buzzing sound. Was it she or the wind which was buzzing like a
hornet through the crack in the pane?
No, it was she, Madam Toothache herself! Her terrible highness, Satania
Infernalis! God deliver and preserve us from her!
“It is good to be here!” she buzzed. “These are nice quarters – mossy
ground, fenny ground! Gnats have been buzzing around here, with poison
in their stings; and now I am here with such a sting. It must be
sharpened on human teeth. Those belonging to the fellow in bed here
shine so brightly. They have defied sweet and sour things, heat and
cold, nutshells and plum stones; but I shall shake them, make them
quake, feed their roots with drafty winds, and give them cold feet!”
That was a frightening speech! She was a terrible visitor!
“So you are a poet!” she said. “Well, I’ll make you well versed in all
the poetry of toothache! I’ll thrust iron and steel into your body! I’ll
seize all the fibers of your nerves!”
I then felt as if a red-hot awl were being driven into my jawbone; I
writhed and twisted.
“A splendid set of teeth,” she said, “just like an organ to play upon!
We shall have a grand concert, with jew’s-harps, kettledrums, and
trumpets, piccolo-flute, and a trombone in the wisdom tooth! Grand poet,
And then she started to play; she looked terrible, even if one did not
see more of her than her hand, the shadowy, gray, icecold hand, with the
long, thin, pointed fingers; each of them was an instrument of torture;
the thumb and the forefinger were the pincers and wrench; the middle
finger ended in a pointed awl; the ring finger was a drill, and the
little finger squirted gnat’s poison.
“I am going to teach you meter!” she said. “A great poet must have a
great toothache, a little poet a little toothache!”
“Oh, let me be a little poet!” I begged. “Let me be nothing at all! And
I am not a poet; I have only fits of poetry, like fits of toothache. Go
away, go away!”
“Will you acknowledge, then, that I am mightier than poetry, philosophy,
mathematics, and all the music?” she said. “Mightier than all those
notions that are painted on canvas or carved in marble? I am older than
every one of them. I was born close to the garden of paradise, just
outside, where the wind blew and the wet toadstools grew. It was I who
made Eve wear clothes in the cold weather, and Adam also. Believe me,
there was power in the first toothache!”
“I believe it all,” I said. “But go away, go away!”
“Yes, if you will give up being a poet, never put verse on paper, slate,
or any sort of writing material, then I will let you off; but I’ll come
again if you write poetry!”
“I swear!” I said; “only let me never see or feel you any more!”
“See me you shall, but in a more substantial shape, in a shape more dear
to you than I am now. You shall see me as Aunty Mille, and I shall say,
‘Write poetry, my sweet boy! You are a great poet, perhaps the greatest
we have!’ But if you believe me, and begin to write poetry, then I will
set music to your verses, and play them on your mouth harp. You sweet
child! Remember me when you see Aunty Mille!”
Then she disappeared.
At our parting I received a thrust through my jawbone like that of a
red-hot awl; but it soon subsided, and then I felt as if I were gliding
along the smooth water; I saw the white water lilies, with their large
green leaves, bending and sinking down under me; they withered and
dissolved, and I sank, too, and dissolved into peace and rest.
“To die, and melt away like snow!” resounded in the water; “to evaporate
into air, to drift away like the clouds!”
Great, glowing names and inscriptions on waving banners of victory, the
letters patent of immortality, written on the wing of an ephemera, shone
down to me through the water.
The sleep was deep, a sleep now without dreams. I did not hear the
whistling wind, the banging gate, the ringing of the neighbor’s gate
bell, or the lodger’s strenuous gymnastics.
Then came a gust of wind so strong that the locked door to Aunty’s room
burst open. Aunty jumped up, put on her shoes, got dressed, and came
into my room. I was sleeping like one of God’s angels, she said, and she
had not the heart to awaken me.
I later awoke by myself and opened my eyes. I had completely forgotten
that Aunty was in the house, but I soon remembered it and then
remembered my toothache vision. Dream and reality were blended.
“I suppose you did not write anything last night after we said good
night?” she said. “I wish you had; you are my poet and shall always be!”
It seemed to me that she smiled rather slyly. I did not know if it was
the kindly Aunty Mille, who loved me, or the terrible one to whom I had
made the promise the night before.
“Have you written any poetry, sweet child?”
“No, no!” I shouted. “You are Aunty Mille, aren’t you?”
“Who else?” she said. And it was Aunty Mille.
She kissed me, got into a carriage, and drove home.
I wrote down what is written here. It is not in verse, and it will never
Yes, here ended the manuscript.
My young friend, the grocer’s assistant, could not find the missing
sheets; they had gone out into the world like the papers around the
salted herring, the butter, and the green soap; they had fulfilled their
The brewer is dead; Aunty is dead; the student is dead, he whose sparks
of genius went into the basket. This is the end of the story – the story
of Aunty Toothache.