Excerpt from book:
After several years of service to the monstrumologist, I approached him with the idea of recording, in the interest of posterity, one or two of his more memorable case studies. I waited, of course, until he was in one of his better moods. Approaching Pellinore Warthrop while he wallowed in one of his frequent bouts of melancholia could be hazardous to one’s physical well-being. Once, when I made that ill-advised approach, he hurled a volume of Shakespeare’s tragedies at my head.
The moment presented itself at the delivery of the day’s mail, which included a letter from President McKinley, thanking Warthrop for his service to the country upon the satisfactory conclusion of “that peculiar incident in the Adirondacks.” The doctor, whose ego was as robust as any of Mr. P. T. Barnum’s sideshow strong men, read it aloud three times before entrusting it to my care. I was his file clerk, among other things—or, I should say, as well as every other thing. Nothing outside his work could brighten the monstrumologist’s mood more than a brush with celebrity. It seemed to satisfy some deep yearning in him.
Beyond elevating his moribund spirits and thus ensuring—momentarily, at least—my physical safety, the letter also provided the perfect entrée for my suggestion.
“It was quite peculiar, wasn’t it?” I asked.
“Hmmm? Yes, I suppose.” The monstrumologist was absorbed in the latest issue of the Saturday Evening Post, which had also arrived that day.
“It would make quite a tale, if someone were to tell it,” I ventured.
“I have been thinking of preparing a small piece for the Journal,” replied he. The Journal of the Society for the Advancement of the Science of Monstrumology was the official quarterly of the Society.
“I was thinking of something for more widespread consumption. A story for the Post, for example.”
“An interesting idea, Will Henry,” he said. “But wholly impractical. I made a promise to the president that the matter would remain strictly confidential, and I’ve no doubt that, if I should break my vow, I might find myself locked up in Fort Leavenworth, not exactly the ideal place to pursue my studies.”
“But if you published something in the Journal…”
“Oh, who reads that?” he snorted, waving his hand dismissively. “It is the nature of my profession, Will Henry, to labor in obscurity. I avoid the press for a very good reason, to protect the public and to protect my work. Imagine what the publication of that affair would do—the firestorm of panic and recriminations. Why, half the state of New York would empty out, and the rest would appear on my doorstep to hang me from the nearest tree.”
“Some might say your actions were nothing short of heroic,” I countered. If I could not appeal to his reason, I would plead to his ego.
“Some have,” he replied, referring to the president’s letter. “And that must be enough.”
But not quite enough; I knew what he meant. More than once he had seized my hand at his bedside, staring beseechingly at me with those dark backlit eyes nearly mad with desperation and sorrow, begging me to never forget, to bear his memory past the grave. You are all I have, Will Henry. Who else will remember me when I am gone? I will sink into oblivion, and the earth shall not note or care at my passing!
“Very well. Another case, then. That matter in Campeche, at Calakmul…”
“What is this, Will Henry?” He glared at me over the magazine. * "The relationship between Will and his master has never been more complex...Yancey’s skill as a stylist cannot be denied."--Booklist, starred review