She roved further afield as she wriggled her toes luxuriously on the hot-water bottle. If it pleased our dear God to take her to Himself, and she was not so young as she had been—there was that plate of the four lower ones in the blue tooth-glass, for instance—He should find all her belongings fit to meet His eye. ‘Swept and garnished’ were the words that shaped themselves in her intent brain. ‘Swept and garnished for——’

This is from "Swept and Garnished" by Rudyard Kipling.

I don't understand the meaning of---
---there was that plate of the four lower ones in the blue tooth-glass,---

I am glad if someone would kindly teach me.

1 Answer 1


The paragraph is deliberately disjointed to mimic Frau Ebermann's state of mind: she has two separate thoughts running through her head at the same time, and she is feverish (to the point of hallucination!) on top of that. My first thought was that "that plate of the four lower ones in the blue tooth-glass" was part of the thought about her things (the lace cover on the radiatortop, the tortoise-shell brushes, the comb) and how they were arranged just as they should be. But actually the aside is part of the thought about how she is "not as young as she had been."

Here "plate" refers to

  1. (dentistry) A shaped and fitted surface, usually ceramic or metal that fits into the mouth and in which teeth are implanted; a dental plate. (Wiktionary)

Thus "plate of the four lower ones" would be a set of dentures replacing her four lower teeth. I am not quite sure how this would work or what it means, because of course people have more than four teeth in the bottom half of their mouth—but in any case the fact that she needs false teeth is an indication of her age.

A tooth-glass is a little glass used to hold a toothbrush or dentures or the like.

  • randomhead, thank you for your kind and detailed answer as before. It is very helpful! Jul 21, 2021 at 4:03
  • The thought that she was not as young as she had been and the fact of her partial plate denture are linked. People tend to have dentures as they get older. Jul 21, 2021 at 6:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .