Some (Tooth) Cutting Remarks by Ashley Sterne.
From the Huon Times (Franklin, Tasmania) August 5 1921
I cannot imagine why so many men and women, as soon as they attain the dignity of parenthood, apparently lose their reasoning faculties.
Just try this over on your piano and see what you think of it.
I was coming home in the train the other day, and had settled myself in the corner of an empty compartment preparatory to feasting my eyes on the superb scenery which my railway-line affords by a practically unbroken chain of soap-works, brick fields and sewage-farms, when a comparatively newly-married couple and a few-months-old baby got in.
It wasn't from the baby that I deduced that the couple were comparatively newly-married. The husband allowed his wife to get into the carriage first — that's all.
In ordinary circumstances it is my custom, whenever my compartment is invaded by an infant-in-arms, to clear out and get another; or, if there's no room, bribe the engine-driver to let me ride on the coals.
On this occasion, however, I didn't, because I mistook the baby for a more than usually pallid vegetable; and it was not until we were passing the fourteenth set of soap-works that it revealed its identity by commencing to shriek.
I at once meditated throwing myself out of the window, but unfortunately it was one of that patent kind to open which you have to read a whole brass plate full of instructions; and then it won't open — you only get your fingers mangled. So I resigned myself to the inevitable.
I don't know why it is, but whenever I have the misfortune to be in the same railway compartment with a baby it is invariably taken violently ill, or else yells incessantly until I get out. Then it ceases. I sometimes wonder if there can be anything wrong with my face.
In this instance, it had been staring at me for a good ten minutes before it set the welkin ringing, so I could only conclude that the mother had inadvertently broken it somewhere. Or perhaps she had thrust one of the murderous safety-pins with which a baby requires to be held together through its spinal cord or other equally tender spot.
But the true cause of the trouble was soon ascertained, for in opening the hole in its face to its fullest extent in order to give vent to a particularly piercing shriek, the infant revealed its gums.
"Good gracious!" exclaimed the mother, in intense excitement, "Vernon's cutting a tooth! Look, Archie, look!"
Archie put his head in the baby's mouth, had a good look around, and finally cried, "Good gracious!" too. He looked as though he normally expected a baby to cut a crochet hook or a boot jack instead of a tooth.
Never shall I forget the exclamations of wonder and surprise that brainless young couple indulged in. Vernon was cutting a tooth — that's all — but they went on as if the feat had no parallel in history. Anyone would have imagined that they didn't know children had teeth, and I should not have been very surprised if the mother had turned the child upside down, and exclaimed, in the same wonder-stricken accents, "Look, Archie! Vernon's got two feet!"
Well they talked about the marvel for at least twenty minutes. It was so startling, so unheard of, they agreed, that it was necessary to inform by wire both sets of grandparents. I'm surprised they didn't pull the communication cord and tell the guard.
Now, people with minds like that ought not to be entrusted with children. They ought to be allowed to keep nothing more exciting than gold fish, which don't cut teeth. The only excuse for their behavior would be if Vernon had not cut a tooth. Then I agree that no time should be lost in putting the matter into their solicitor's hands.
It is a baby's duty to cut teeth, just as it is a barber's duty to cut hair, and the sooner young parents grasp this fact and cease to lapse into a state of hysterical wonder at the performance of a purely natural function the better for all concerned.
Otherwise I see some rude shocks in store for Vernon's parents in the future; but it may lessen the force of the blow if I warn them in advance that the following phenomena are likely to occur in due course:
In a few days Vernon will cut another tooth. He will continue at intervals to cut teeth until he has amassed about thirty. These teeth will come out from time to time and he'll cut new ones. At the age of eighteen or nineteen Vernon will commence to cut a moustache. At twenty-one he will cut a dash. Shortly after that he'll cut his tailor dead in the street.
Finally, at the age of seventy, Vernon will again shed his teeth, but he won't cut any more. His dentist will cut the next lot for him, and fix them on some pretty, pink india-rubber gums.