I have never encountered an illness like that of the Young Master. What more rational name there is than “illness,” I am unaware, though it is an admittedly uncanny affliction.
Never had I wished for a thing so as to continue in my employers’ service when they announced they were expecting. The Master and Mistress had gone to great strains to conceive, importing all number of chemicals and powders, and seeking all number of blessing. One night I even witnessed the Mistress reading an occult tome, though the next day she ordered our precious blind cook to burn it and toss it out with the morning dregs.
The Mistress conceived it was time for me to retire. I could not deny the charges of my posture, of my trembling hands whenever I carried a tray of dinner to the Master’s upper study, and of my liver was deteriorating in much the same pattern as had that of my father and two forebears. It was only upon extreme begging of their charity that they allowed me to serve in reduced capacity through the birth and entry of a new member unto the household.
The Young Master was born of perfect health. I checked him myself as the doctors swarmed our Mistress, chanting of “internal aberrations," though I cannot recall her ever complaining of such conditions before. I carried the Young Master out of the room so he might not witness such pain as his first experience on our earth. It would be unseemly.
In the weeks that followed, the Master spent his days either in utter solitude in the upper study, or with the Young Master. How he stared at the the child, I sometimes feared he was going vile. I was almost relieved when he took ill and could no longer visit the lower floors.
It was by these emergencies that I was charged with finding wet nurses for the Young Master. Never have I heard of such trouble. Six we went through, six sturdy women, every one of them documented and with fine history. Four suffered anemia after their initial visits, and the other two were bedridden from unknown malignities.
We had such weather the night our Master finally slipped away. Nearly all the staff remained by his door, and it remains a regret that I could not join them, yet the Young Master required attention. I had to call upon a wet nurse of no documentation, who swore upon her life that her malignity was exclusive to her person and in no way transferable. Had I not been so shaken, I never would have admitted her, and yet?
The Young Master took to her breast immediately and found no complaint. Her milk was as fine as any of the women who had attended him before. No illness beset him that night or any night afterward, whereas, and I appreciate the sound of irrationality about it, but the wet nurse’s sallow malignity seemed to dissolve by morning. Even the boils on her neck waned. By Friday, she was comely for her age. I’ve had letters from her since that claim a total remission.
A coincidence, if not for this personal factor: since the Young Master came into my hands, these fingers have never been so steady. The pleasure of snapping one’s fingers is a thing I had forgotten, and now reclaim. I stride through these halls with endurance and posture unknown to me for fifteen years at the most conservative. And the pain in my liver? I have not felt it bleed in nigh on a month, and I should, for the Young Master takes to prodding at it whenever I carry him about his estate.
Census of the staff confirms my conviction: arthritis is extinct, and malignity seemingly out on vacation, while every able-bodied servant has taken to bed or had to excuse himself. I took my census to our precious blind cook for advice of one who thinks without the clouded vision of sight. Her answer shook me to my core, for after I asked her, she looked upon me for the first time in our long tenure together, and I realized that was her answer. She saw me, and it brought a tear to an old man’s eyes.
She has no more notion of what to do with the Young Master than I. Is this a condition that can be cured, and is it something that even ought to be cured?
So I must indulge in an indiscretion. Tomorrow, before the authorities arrive to take the Young Master into their care, I will shuttle him to the insane asylum on the other side of the mountain. I have known numerous educated men who claimed insanity to be an illness of the mind. Well if this is true, then after I push the Young Master’s pram through those halls for an hour, I may find several dozen cured and grateful minds with whom to discuss how best to serve him.