once upon a time there was a little boy whose only conversation was the word "whatever."
his mother was in service as a parlor maid at one of lord derby's summer residences and she had hoped that he would in time take his place below stairs as a cook's helper (he liked to eat) or a postboy (he didn't care much for horses but was not afraid of them).
one day his lordship arrived at the summer residence in preparation of a visit from the russian foreign secretary and the president of brazil to finalize the minutiae of a secret treaty. the housekeeper was an old favorite of his, and so he agreed to subject himself to the tedious business of having the new servants presented to him.
the little boy's mother, the new parlor maid, was near the end of the line.
"this is sylvia, the new parlor maid," mrs harrisworth the housekeeper announced.
sylvia dropped a neat curtsey to his lordship, who was falling asleep on his feet. he opened his eyes with a start. "quite, quite," he said. he looked down at the little boy who was standing beside his mother.
"and what is your name, little fellow, eh?" lord derby addressed him in his best votegetting manner.
mrs harrisworth frowned and sylvia blushed furiously. "i am sorry, my lord, but that is the only thing the boy ever says. i have tried to correct him - i have prayed - ," sylvia stammered.
"whatever.eh!" lord derby laughed heartily. "i like it! by the lord harry, we can use a chap like this in the foreign office." he looked down at the boy. "look here, young fellow, how would you like to help finalize a secret treaty between her majesty's government and russia and brazil, eh? doesn't that sound jolly?"
"excellent. we'll convene in the green room after dinner, and after cigars. bring the lad down to the green room after the gentlemen have had their cigars, eh, mrs harrisworth. by the way, what is the lad's name?"
"very good, my lord." the housekeeper replied with a glance at sylvia.
"his name is william, my lord," sylvia answered.
william's first foray into diplomacy that night proved a success, so successful that the treaty between britain, russia and brazll has remained a secret to this day. if the choleric brazilian president or the subtle russian diplomat found the presence of a nine year old boy at the negotiations disconcerting, their wonder soon gave way to frustration at dealing with the lad's implacabllity.
as the years went by william's successes multiplied. although he never became known in any capacity to the general public and was never listed in any official capacity, as "lord william" and later under the sobriquet of "the dustman" he came to haunt and then dominate the corridors of earthly power. inevitably, he became considered too valuable to deal with terrestial governments and became a negotiator and then chief negotiator with the galactic empires. those empires, which then as now, were divided between those kindly disposed or indifferent toward earth, and those which saw it simply as a source of gladiatorial amusement.
in time it was william, drawing on the lessons of his masters derby, disraeli and bismarck, but in no small part guided by his native genius, who arranged for the "first world war" to be staged for the entertainment of the empire, in lieu of the total destruction which the more bloody-minded craved. the success of this enterprise was mixed. although he had "saved the day" in one sense the spectacle he had engineered proved so diverting that he could not prevail against the demand for an encore. at this juncture, his career hung in the balance. whispers were heard in the corridors that the old man had lost his touch and his nerve, and that fresh talent was needed to contend with the capricious masters of the universe. but he prevailed, and has prevailed. he was helped by the herbal assistance provided by his diplomatic adversaries, who had become so bemused by the novelty of a mere earthling dealing with them on something like their own terms, that their amusement ripened into something resembling "affection". they laughingly referred to him as "kax ver plint", roughly translated as "the old human."
for over half a human century lord william has continued at his post, keeping his patronizingly friendly adversaries diverted by an endless series of minor amusements. but the best medicines and medics in the galaxies must finally yield to the mistress of the universe, time herself, and william's days are numbered.
who will replace him?