There was the hum of busy life in the Phosphorus mansion. Father and Mother Phosphorus had planned a family reunion in celebration of their wedding anniversary. Phosphorus acid. their bachelor son had betaken himself to his club when the preparations began. He looked upon the reunion with indifference and his disinclination to work warned him to keep out of the way.
All of the Phosphorus children were married excepting Phosphorus acid and he in his earlier days had been disappointed in love. He had nursed the disappointment until he had become a sour old bachelor. he was an emaciated, debilitated old fellow, slow of speech, didn’t care to talk; if he had any thought at all (and he was quite likely not to have any) they were all about his own troubles. If he had tried to read, he couldn’t comprehend what he was reading and forgot it immediately, so at the club, he was homesick to tearfulness, yet he could not go home because he could not endure the noise of the children nor the conversation of the elders.
The thoughts of Father and Mother Phosphorus came too rapidly and they experienced some difficulty in arranging them, but they remembered the time when they too were apathetic, indifferent and tearful, therefore they did not blame their son for his lack of interest in the reunion.
The other six sons had all married into the important families of the Materia Medica world. To have these six sons and their families all at home, taxed the family mansion to the utmost.
Father Phosphorus proposed to put the overflow into tents upon the lawn but Mother Phosphorus recalled how easily they all took cold, how cold aggravated the troubles of all and what an aversion most of them had for the open air, so they decided to close in the porches for temporary bedrooms.
At last all was ready. The Ferrum phosphoricum branch were the first to arrive. They came early because they were so tired they wanted plenty of time to rest before the arrival of the others. Father and Mother Phosphorus didn’t want their son to marry into the Ferrum family because the Ferrums were such weaklings, but Miss Ferrum’s blushes, her fainting, her apparent helplessness appealed to young Phosphorus stronger than his parents’ desires and when he saw how much she improved when exerting herself mentally to entertain him, he concluded he didn’t want to live alone. Father and mother Phosphorus were prostrated over the marriage of this son and seemed dumb and dazed for many days. The Ferrum phosphoricum children proved to be just the kind of children that Father and Mother Phosphorus had predicted them to be.
When the tall, slim, dark-complexioned young Phosphorus went wooing the fair, fat Miss Calcarea, everybody thought it such an excellent alliance, but when the children came emaciated, anaemic, bowlegged and hump backed, people began to wonder, if after all the alliance was what it should have been. But curved spines, bow-legs and all, Father and Mother Phosphorus gladly welcomed them.
When Mother Phosphorus saw the Magnesia phosphorica branch drive up with their heads bound tightly with woollen mufflers, she knew that they were suffering from neuralgia, so she ordered a roaring fire built in the great old-fashioned fireplace in the living room and placed the Magnesia phosphoricas in the chimney corner where they could keep warm and not move. Then if they lamented all the time about their pains, they were back near the chimney where no one could hear them.
Just as Mother Phosphorus had disposed of the Magnesia phosphoricas, the Alumina phosphorica family made its appearance to the joy of Father and Mother Phosphorus who feared they would not make the exertion to come. The Alumina phosphoricas were always tired, always cold, yet they wanted the fresh, open air to breathe, so Mother Phosphorus tucked them away all bundled up as they were on couches in the sunshine in the glass enclosed porch where they could rest and be comfortable.
When the Natrum phosphoricum family came, they were in trouble. There had been a thunder-storm during the drive. The girls were in hysterics and all were frightened and trembling and angry. They couldn’t understand why they had attempted to come at all for they didn’t like company, they didn’t like the open air, thunderstorms made them sick and they were sure they wouldn’t get the proper things to eat. Mother Phosphorus put them into a dark room where they would neither see the lightning nor feel a draft and they were soon more comfortable.
When Mr. and Mrs. Kali phosphoricum came in, it was easily seen that there had been a family jar. Mrs. Kali phosphoricum had such an antipathy for her husband that he could not please her in anything. She had become so furiously angry with him on the way down that she could not speak; she had spanked the baby for nothing and then had a fit of hysterics. She said she didn’t like company and wanted to go home. Father and Mother Phosphorus knew that the open air aggravated the Kali phosphoricum branch, so hurried them into the house and as ascending the stairs also aggravated them, they put them in a comfortable room on the first floor to rest.
While every one was resting, Mother Phosphorus attended to the preparation of dinner. When all was ready and she went to call them, she found Kali phosphoricum lying flat on his back with a stunning headache which the excitement on coming had produced. He had his hand over his eyes to shut out the light. He wanted to go out to dinner for eating would sometimes ameliorate his headache but he was sure that the jar of going out and the noise of the dining room would undo all the good that the eating would do, so Mother Phosphorus sent his dinner into him.
When Mrs. Kali phosphoricum had recovered from her hysterical fit, she was much exhausted and when she saw how the disturbance that she had made had affected Mr. Kali phosphoricum, she became melancholic, thought she had sinned away her day of grace and refused to eat. She was so obstinate there was no use trying to get her to change her mind and she was better from fasting any way, so Mother Phosphorus left her. By this time, the Kali phosphoricum baby was shrieking like a crazy baby, so the nurse bundled it up and quieted it by walking slowly and gently with it up and down the lawn.
When Mr. and Mrs. Natrum phosphoricum were called to dinner they said they thought it was about time. No one ever works fast enough to suit the Natrum phosphoricums. They were ravenously hungry and hurried to the dining room without even stopping to wash the baby which had an odor altogether too sour for health.
When the heat from the blazing logs had ameliorated the neuralgia of the Magnesia phosphoricas and although they were not hungry, they went to the dining room. The pangs of hunger did not remind the Calcarea phosphoricas that dinner time was approaching but the call to dinner set them to thinking about it, then they wanted to eat.
The Ferrum phosphoricums weren’t hungry and they knew they were likely to have pain in the stomach after eating, especially if they ate meat, herring or cakes or drank coffee. They disliked milk but were very thirsty for a good drink of water, so went to the table.
By the time dinner was ready, the Alumina phosphoricas had lain so long the aggravation of their trouble was returning. Some of the children were ravenously hungry and some had no appetite at all but all were glad to get up and go to the dining room, though usually they didn’t care to move or make any exertion.
The characteristics of the company that gathered at the Phosphorus table were varied. The Natrum phosphoricums were confused and nervous, sensitive to music and were easily frightened, bashful and hysterical. Mr. and Mrs. Ferrum phosphoricum were hilarious and talkative but they had difficulty in remembering names which, in present company, placed them at a disadvantage. The Magnesia phosphoricas were persistently sad and seemed to be able to talk about nothing but their own pains. The Alumina phosphorica branch were noted for the rapidity with which their moods changed. The mood of one minute never indicated what the mood of the next would be.
They might be lamenting over imaginary misfortunes or they might be wildly mirthful or absent minded and averse to answering questions.
The Calcarea phosphoricas were inclined to be stupid and never satisfied. Before leaving home they were desirous of attending the reunion and when they were there they were just as desirous of going home.
Father and Mother Phosphorus looked down the table and noted the indications of brain fag all along the line and knew that the tendency had been an inheritance which had been transmitted to the children from themselves.
They had not been long at the table, when Natrum Phosphoricum began to sneeze. He was sure that he was in a draft, though Mother Phosphorus had closed all the windows and doors. Alumina phosphorica also began to sneeze but she was sure there was no draft and thought they would all feel better if a little fresh air could be let in. She would open the windows herself were it not that physical exertion gave her an aggravation. She proposed that they all wrap up and then have the fresh air in. Calcarea phosphorica, who was sneezing with the rest said he despised a draft as much as Natrum phosphoricum did because it gave him rheumatism in the neck. He was quite sure that the warm room was giving him coryza, but he knew a cold room would also give it to him so he voted to let well enough alone.
The hearing of Mrs. Kali phosphoricum, whose fast had improved her, was acute to noises and voices. She could hear the hum of conversation from the dining room but could not understand what was being said. She at once became suspicious and concluded she had better make an exertion to find out what was going on even though she now had such a pain in the occiput that she couldn’t have her hair done up. When, with sunken eyes and hair hanging down her back, she entered the dining room, she might easily have been mistaken for a crazy woman, but Alumina phosphorica, who knew what headaches binding up the hair caused, understood and made a place for her at the table.
Mrs. Kali phosphoricum had a ravenous appetite when she started for the table but at the sight of food, her hunger fled so she sat and drank ice water and looked about for something sour and something sweet. She did not need to look far, for Mother Phosphorus had catered for his family before and had learnt to consider the desires and aversions of each. Like herself, Alumina phosphorica, Ferrum phosphoricum and Natrum phosphoricum disliked meat and Alumina phosphorica disliked beer. Magnesia phosphoricum inherited from her the aversion to coffee. Mother Phosphorus didn’t like boiled milk but Natrum phosphoricum and Ferrum phosphoricum went a little farther and disliked all milk.
Mrs. Magnesia phosphorica said her baby had been troubled with colic more or less ever since it was born, in fact had inherited it from both its father’s and mother’s family. The colic usually appeared about three or four o’clock in the afternoon and doubled him up. She found that it was better from warmth and pressure, so she put the baby, stomach down, on a hot water bottle and when she couldn’t get the hot water, she found that rubbing his abdomen with her warm hand using pressure answered the purpose.
Mrs. Ferrum phosphoricum didn’t know what was the matter with her little fair skinned, golden curly locks. It wasn’t sick in any way that she could discover but was just weak. It was true, it sometimes had the colic but a stool almost immediately cured it. It was suggested that perhaps it was the nosebleed that had weakened the child but Mrs. Ferrum phosphoricum said “no, probably the baby has inherited both the weakness and nosebleed as the Ferrum and Phosphorus families were both troubled in the same way.”
Mrs. Calcarea phosphorica said there was not the least doubt as to what was the matter with her little bow-legged, emaciated youngster. Lack of nutrition was written all over him. She couldn’t understand it for she had fed him enough to make him big and fat like her mother’s babies. His troubles began when he was a tiny infant. At that time, a bloody fluid was noticed oozing from the navel. Then he had colic and diarrhoea, his teeth were slow in coming and his fontanelles hadn’t even closed yet. He was slow in learning to walk, but with such bowlegs and crooked back, that might be expected. She sometimes wondered if he was lacking in mentality, he seemed so stupid.
Mrs. Natrum phosphoricum’s baby was bottle fed, therefore she had her own troubles with it. He had a ravenous appetite, consequently ate too much; the food soured in the stomach and the baby had colic and worms. He had sour eructations, sour vomit, sour stools, sour perspiration. He certainly was sour baby, sour, wormy and squint-eyed. Alumina phosphorica said the trouble with the babies was bad enough but if the rest wanted to know what real trouble was, they should wait until a promising son should break down mentally at the end of his college life.
While they were still talking, the men came in and told them the sun was getting low and it was time to go home. Father Phosphorus had locomotor ataxia, so couldn’t do much towards helping them but Mother Phosphorus bundled up the babies and did her best to speed the parting guests.