|"The Haunted Bicuspid" |
Set in OTL
|Type of Appearance:||Direct narrator|
|Date of Birth:||1800|
two other sons,
|Relatives:||Two unnamed granddaughters|
William "Bill" Legrand was perhaps the biggest retailer of fine furniture in 1850s Baltimore. His life would have been perfect except for his continuing problems with his teeth, which began while he was still a young man.
By the 1840s, Legrand had lost or had dentists pull all his lower teeth. He didn't mind since his lower plate fit tolerably well and he didn't need to worry about any other pain. However, he wanted to hold onto the upper teeth since an upper plate was held in place with springs and was another infernal invention (along with the implements of torture that dentists used).
By 1851, Legrand had had several upper teeth pulled but still had most of them when his top left bicuspid went off as though it were on fire. Given his past experiences, Legrand was reluctant to go to a dentist. But the pain persisted and so he reluctantly went, this time to a practitioner named Vankirk.
After examining him, Vankirk assured Legrand that he could have the bicuspid out in jig time with a replacement in the socket and all without causing any pain. Legrand scoffed at that, saying that this wasn't the first tooth he had had pulled and that he had stupefied himself every remedy known to nature to no avail. Vankirk replied he had a remedy now known to man, namely chloroform.
Legrand was sceptical, thinking it another humbug. But Vankirk assured him it worked, that a surgeon could take a man's leg off never mind a tooth and that the patient would not feel a thing. Legrand had been lied to by many a dentist but if Vankirk was lying then he was the best liar Legrand had seen. He felt something surprising; hope.
Legrand then asked about the replacement tooth. He had had that done before and they never held for more than a year. Vankirk was confident, that the others did not know their business. He then rummaged in a box of teeth in a drawer and showed one to Legrand with the assurance that it would be a perfect fit. Legrand asked where it came from and Vankirk answered that it was from a brave young soldier killed at the battle of Buena Vista. He also assured Legrand that it was good for another twenty or thirty years.
Clearly Legrand's tooth had to come out so he agreed to Vankirk proceeding with the removal and replacement. He sat down in the dentist's chair and Vankirk pulled out a bottle and rag from the drawer. He soaked the rag in fluid from the bottle and applied it to Legrand's nose and mouth. It smelled sweat and nasty at the same time and made Legrand drunk and then unconscious.
When Legrand awoke, he at first hadn't realize he had been unconscious. He demanded to known when Vankirk would begin but the words didn't come out. He realized there was a cloth in his mouth to soak up the blood from his extraction. He spat it out and then assured Vankirk that chloroform was no humbug, that he hadn't felt any pain.
Vankirk showed Legrand the black tooth he had pulled and then tossed it into the rubbish. Legrand felt the new tooth with his tongue and found it was fixed to the tooth behind it by a fine wire. Vankirk assured him that the new tooth fit exceedingly well and that it would be healed enough in a fortnight for him to remove the wire. The two made an appointment in two weeks for that purpose.
Vankirk then asked Legrand to get up and walk about in the room to show he had recovered from the effects of the chloroform sufficiently to go home. Legrand did so and satisfied Vankirk. Vankirk also cautioned him that some pain would return as the chloroform wore off but Legrand had come prepared with a bottle of laudanum. He took a few drops knowing from past experience it would shift this lesser pain. As Legrand left Vankirk's room, he told him when he had the wire removed, he would see him "nevermore". In retrospect, Legrand believed that this was the begining of his descent into the maelström from which he was fortunate to escape unharmed.
On returning home, Legrand's wife Helen flew into his arms while crying out in sympathy. As he held her, he described what had transpired and the miracle that was chloroform. She expressed her gratitude that he had come through it well enough.
Legrand's three sons and daughter, knowing the ordeal he was to undergo, also came around to visit and to see how he fared. All were glad of the successful outcome. However, his son Benjamin asked of the source of the transplanted tooth. When Legrand indicated that Vankirk had said it had come from the mouth of a fallen American hero of the Mexican War, Benjamin began to laugh. Benjamin explained that his friend Dr. Ernest Valdemar had told him most dentists obtained teeth from "harvesters" who stole them from local graves by the light of the moon. Legrand felt a frisson horror at the thought and assured his son that he would confront Vankirk when he returned in two weeks to have the wire removed.
Two weeks later, Legrand did visit Vankirk again. The dentist first examined his mouth and expressed astonishment at how well the jaw had healed. He then removed the wire since it was no longer needed. At that point Legrand asked of the real source of the tooth, explaining what his son had told him. Vankirk admitted that it was, in fact, a Baltimore tooth but it was as sound as he had promised. The way it had incorporated itself in Legrand's jaw was proof of that fact. Legrand accepted that and was also won over by Vankirk's willingness to admit the truth.
With that satisfactory admission and Vankirk's assurances that the transplant was the best he had ever seen, Legrand left and continued with his life. Several weeks later, he began to have most vivid dreams. The first was mildly disturbing given the nature of who he was and what he had done but the most upsetting part was his inability to recall its significance. The second, a few nights later, was more overtly upsetting and caused Legrand to wake up screaming.
Given this nightmare, Legrand was afraid to fall asleep again. For several nights, he kept himself awake but eventually he dropped off to sleep and had another dream. He awoke with his heart pounding and his nightclothes drenched with sweat. He began to consider a course of action he would normally think mad but under the circumstances seemed reasonable. As he steeled himself to take action, he delayed for several days and tried to stay awake. But eventually he drifted off and had a fourth dream.
On being awaken by his wife, Legrand remained awake until morning. As soon as he thought it possible that Vankirk would be available, he set off for his establishment. He found him there and so demanded that he remove the transplanted bicuspid. Vankirk was taken aback but after Legrand described his dreams he agreed. As Vankirk made ready to apply the chloroform, Legrand stopped him and asked if the tooth could be returned to the correct grave. Vankirk paused for thought and then assured Legrand it could.
When Legrand regained consciousness, he found his mouth full of blood. He spat it out into a basin Vankirk provided and then was shown the extracted tooth. Vankirk explained that it was most remarkable how strongly the tooth resisted extraction. Transplants came out "easy as you please" but this one hung on "with both hands and both feet" as it were. Legrand was not surprised. He sought assurances that all of the tooth was extracted. Vankirk thought it was but acknowledged the possibility that a small fragment could remain. He assured Legrand that if he had any more problems, he would go in and make sure.
However, Legrand was trouble free aside from his more usual dental problems. As he concluded his tale in George M.'s drinking establishment, he called for a round of Amontillado in celebration.