Hepar is in trouble. His friend Silica is ill, in fact he is very ill. It is not an acute attack this time, it is his chronic trouble which seems to have reached a culmination. Silica’s chronic condition has been long lasting and serious in its nature. He never has been well. He inherited a scrofulous constitution and has not improved upon it as he grew older. As a baby, he had a great big head with open fontanelles and a little emaciated body, was threatened very strongly with rickets. He had enlarged glands, suppurated glands. His vaccination was followed by abscesses and convulsions. He had growing pains all the way up. WHEN A LITTLE FELLOW his nurse dropped him, his hip was injured, but no one knew about it, so it was neglected and hip joint disease followed. There were suppuration caries and fistulous openings, very sore to touch. The discharge was thin watery and very offensive.
Hepar and Silica have been comrades since childhood and they have had many woes in common. Whenever you saw Silica, Hepar would be likely to be somewhere around; he had either gone before or was soon to make his appearance. Hepar always had a soothing effect upon Silica. That was curious, for Silica was a quarrelsome fellow and obstinate, while Hepar became irritated from the slightest cause and became so furiously angry that he would like to kill someone. Hepar had another friend whom he has known from boyhood. His name is Mercurius. Silica and Mercurius could never get along together. I have a notion that they might have been a little jealous of each other in regard to Hepar, though I never heard it so stated.
Whenever Silica and Mercurius came together, there was sure to be a pitched battle. Hepar didn’t like to have Silica and Mercurius fight, for he was a friend of both. He was always on guard, even when he was a little fellow and whenever it was possible he would step in between the belligerents and prevent the fight. Mercurius always did have a peevish, quarrelsome, suspicious disposition and showed lack of courage. To this day, Mercurius begins a dispute as soon as he comes into Silica’s presence. Silica tries to keep cool but would like to pound Mercurius, he is insulting! Silica soon loses his temper in spite of himself. He thinks Mercurius a great coward and he has no use for him. Silica is despondent, tired of life and would like to go and drown himself, but that is no wonder, when you remember what a great sufferer he had always been. Hepar has the blues by spells, then he is extremely blue for hours.
His pains discourage him. He becomes so sad that he thinks seriously of destroying himself. Mercurius is driven to thoughts of suicide by anxiety. He hasn’t the courage to live. Silica and Mercurius are restless fellows. It’s wonder they haven’t tired Hepar out. Silica is restless, fidgety, starts at the least noise. Mercurius can’t keep still; he goes hither and thither driven by anguish as though he had committed some crime; he fears he will lose his understanding. Probably it’s his conscience that is troubling him because he has been so mean to Silica. If Silica could only understand the extreme anguish of Mercurius, perhaps he would feel less like quarreling with him.
Mercurius considers every one his enemy. Silica ought to make allowances for him, but Silica is very sensitive and Mercurius has hurt is feelings too many times by his insulting manner, so silica can’t understand nor forgive Mercurius and Mercurius can’t understand Silica, therefore they remain enemies.
Hepar is extremely oversensitive to pain but his feelings are not so easily hurt; he is a great fighter, furious in his assaults. Perhaps its because neither Silica nor Mercurius care to fight him that he is able to keep peace between them.
Hepar’s friendship for these two began way back when they all had hip joint disease. Silica had been ill longest. His case had been sadly neglected; in the beginning, pieces of bone had worked out and there were several fistulous openings which were very sore. Mercurius was suffering all the pains of the disease which come when the pus is working its way to the surface. He suffered intensely at night.
You know Mercurius always was such a restless fellow that he couldn’t keep still, especially at night, yet when he had hip joint disease, walking made the pain worse and it seemed to him that it always happened that when the pain was at its worst that was just the time when he had the greatest desire to walk about. Poor Hepar had great sympathy for Mercurius; he knew from experience what those awful nightly pains were. His hip was so extremely sensitive that great beads of perspiration stood out upon his forehead whenever the hip was dressed.
Silica and Mercurius were next door neighbours. When Mercurius had been wrestling with pain and restlessness all night, he was naturally weak and irritable during the day and when he saw Silica limping around; it gave him an angry feeling toward Silica so he sang out a disagreeable salutation as boys often will. At first, Silica was sorry for Mercurius, for in the long past he also had endured those nightly pains and he had not forgotten what they were, but Silica was a boy that could not keep his temper more than three minutes under provocation, so Mercurius soon had him in a fighting mood. Then the battle would begin, each throwing his play things at the other in a most vicious manner. At this point, Hepar would come in, catch the flying missile and toss it lightly back or on as the case might be and so turn the fight into a merry game. Ever since that time, Hepar has been smoothing the way for either Silica or Mercurius.
Mercurius couldn’t resist the temptation to make annoying remarks about Silica’s feet. He said he knew Silica never washed his feet for perspiration alone never made the toes sore nor the feet so offensive and triumphantly showed his own dampened stockings as a proof of his statement. Silica did feel bad about that odor of his feet and he washed them many times a day but could not wash off the odor of the perspiration. Finally in desperation, he put something on and suppressed the perspiration. Then he was in trouble as people always are when they suppress a demonstration of disease. Indeed, Silica’s present trouble has been much hastened by the suppression of that foot sweat.
The three children were all great sweaters from infancy. Hepar always perspired on the least exertion. It was frequently sour and offensive. Silica sweat profusely upon the head and face. The morning would find his pillow wet with perspiration. He perspired on the least exertion and now since he is so ill, he has profuse debilitating night sweats, which are sour and offensive. Mercurius always was a profuse sweater on the least exertion and his perspiration was offensive, but all of his sweating did not make Mercurius feel any better; at times it made him worse. Mercurius’ nightgowns were stained so yellow from perspiration that his mother couldn’t wash them white. They always would look oily.
Hepar was a chilly little thing. His mother never had to call him back to get his overcoat; he didn’t like cold for anything. Mercurius doesn’t want to be either too warm or too cold. Silica says Hepar, is right about cold things. Silica had a felon. The pains were lancinating, stinging, burning, throbbing, severe. Discharge watery and offensive. Hepar had been blessed with a felon ever year for several years and had much sympathy for Silica. He said if Silica could only stand the weight of a poultice, the heat would make the finger feel better, but Silica thought he couldn’t stand the heat, for even the heat of the bed made it worse. Mercurius told them they were stupid. If they tried either heat or cold, both would make the pain worse. He had been through it all and knew.
So, amid quarrels and peace-making, the boys grew up and now Silica is in consumption. He tried to learn the stone-cutter’s trade and it was too much for him. He had pneumonia which was neglected. Tubercles, then abscesses formed, followed by cavities. Hemorrhages appeared and now symptoms of septicaemia have followed. There are profuse, mucopurulent, offensive. Great weakness. Hepar can sometimes relieve the oppressed breathing. Mercurius came in once and stopped the night sweats, thinking to do him a favor but Silica suffered so much more pain when the sweats were stopped that he was glad to have them again. So Hepar hovers about him when possible and keeping Mercurius away lest he do more harm.