It was the children’s nanny who first put me onto it.
The Nanny had a habit of looking down her nose at you whenever she spoke. Like she thought you couldn’t possibly understand the workings of children after all you’d hired a Nanny so you were obviously highly incompetent as a parent.
But she swore by it. Each night she would insist the children take a teaspoon’s worth before bed.
They slept well, they ate well, they exhibited the most perfect of manners and were on the whole the most agreeable children you could imagine.
But when she missed a day like when her mother died and she was called away to attend the funeral the children seemed lost without her and more than that misdirected in everything they did. They had no purpose, appeared listless and most times were thoroughly disagreeable.
We always welcomed Nanny back and she in turn would survey the children and taking her bottle of elixir carefully read the fine print on the back of the bottle before suggesting a change in the dosage.
Once the children were back on track everything settled down to what we knew as normalcy.
I happened to ask Nanny one evening after the children were in bed what the label on the bottle meant when it said “Take At Own Risk”?
Nanny looked at me in that way she did, recognising my obvious incompetence and now my more than obvious incompetence at understand the meaning of “Take At Own Risk”.
“If the balance is not right,” she said, “the children could end up in fright.”
Nanny had a way of speaking not only in rhyme but also in what appeared to me to be riddles.
“Children need the utmost care for fear they lose their hair. You know what we call a child with no hair Sir?”
“No what do you call a child with no hair?”
“Bald!” she stated emphatically looking intently at my own challenged pate.
Deciding that was all that needed to be said she’d leave the room with me feeling I should have known all that and I was just being silly in asking.
I asked her once if I could try the elixir but she stated it was not for me and if I did ingest some she could never take responsibility for what might happen.
But curiosity is a dangerous thing isn’t it. And I did sip some one night when she left the bottle on the kitchen bench.
The effect was immediate.
When Nanny came in to retrieve her bottle she noticed there was some missing. Then she saw me.
“The children will love their new pet,” she chortled, “make sure you stay away from any traps that are set.”
She picked me up and put me into an old bird cage. Shook her head and remarked that when I slurped I should not have burped.