“Did you cry?” asked Faith anxiously.
“No—but I lay down on the floor and groaned,” admitted Walter. “Then the girls came in and Nan put cayenne pepper in it—and that made it worse—Di made me hold a swallow of cold water in my mouth—and I couldn’t stand it, so they called Susan. Susan said it served me right for sitting up in the cold garret yesterday writing poetry trash. But she started up the kitchen fire and got me a hot-water bottle and it stopped the toothache. As soon as I felt better I told Susan my poetry wasn’t trash and she wasn’t any judge. And she said no, thank goodness she was not and she did not know anything about poetry except that it was mostly a lot of lies. Now you know, Faith, that isn’t so. That is one reason why I like writing poetry—you can say so many things in it that are true in poetry but wouldn’t be true in prose. I told Susan so, but she said to stop my jawing and go to sleep before the water got cold, or she’d leave me to see if rhyming would cure toothache, and she hoped it would be a lesson to me.”
“Why don’t you go to the dentist at Lowbridge and get the tooth out?”
Walter shivered again.
“They want me to—but I can’t. It would hurt so.”
“Are you afraid of a little pain?” asked Faith contemptuously.
“It would be a big pain. I hate being hurt. Father said he wouldn’t insist on my going—he’d wait until I’d made up my own mind to go.”
“It wouldn’t hurt as long as the toothache,” argued Faith, “You’ve had five spells of toothache. If you’d just go and have it out there’d be no more bad nights. I had a tooth out once. I yelled for a moment, but it was all over then—only the bleeding.”
“The bleeding is worst of all—it’s so ugly,” cried Walter. “It just made me sick when Jem cut his foot last summer. Susan said I looked more like fainting than Jem did. But I couldn’t hear to see Jem hurt, either. Somebody is always getting hurt, Faith— and it’s awful. I just can’t bear to see things hurt. It makes me just want to run—and run—and run—till I can’t hear or see them.”
“There’s no use making a fuss over anyone getting hurt,” said Faith, tossing her curls. “Of course, if you’ve hurt yourself very bad, you have to yell—and blood is messy—and I don’t like seeing other people hurt, either. But I don’t want to run—I want to go to work and help them. Your father has to hurt people lots of times to cure them. What would they do if he ran away?”
“I didn’t say I would run. I said I wanted to run. That’s a different thing. I want to help people, too. But oh, I wish there weren’t any ugly, dreadful things in the world. I wish everything was glad and beautiful.”
“Well, don’t let’s think of what isn’t,” said Faith. “After all, there’s lots of fun in being alive. You wouldn’t have toothache if you were dead, but still, wouldn’t you lots rather be alive than dead? I would, a hundred times. Oh, here’s Dan Reese. He’s been down to the harbour for fish.”