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The Abdication

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Boy was lying when he said he didn't remember Paul Dempster. Of course he was. Who could forget the misshapen little boy with his pathetic parson father and madwoman mother? Who- if they ever knew- could forget the day, it had to be sixty years ago, when he threw the snowball and was responsible for the birth of two of Deptford's greatest shames? Who- if they ever knew- would ever forget that it was Deptford's Rich Young Ruler that threw the snowball? Certainly the Rich Young Ruler of all people would not forget. Sure enough, Boy Staunton remembered.

But nobody did know. Nobody had any idea who threw that snowball and so the Rich Young Ruler felt no need to tell them. As soon as he made sure that the only other person who could have remembered had forgotten or at least would pretend to have forgotten, Boy pretended to forget as well. It wasn't difficult. He didn't need to think of it much or even at all, and he set about ruling Deptford the way he was meant to. On most days it never even crossed his mind that he had made the hoor when he called it at Paul's mother through the window.

Of course Boy remembered Paul Dempster, but how on earth was that pitiful waif of a child to be reconciled with the wonder that was speaking with him with such fine, though simple, words and in such exquisite tones? Better maybe to deny ever knowing Paul at all, especially knowing that Boy's conscience and Paul's mother were both also present. Anyway, Boy was the Rich Young Ruler of much more than Deptford now and how would it look for him to have caused Paul to be born, and his mother to be mad? Certainly that would be a humiliation, and Boy had never taken humiliation well, so he passed it on to Ramsay.

Ramsay, it turned out, remembered well enough for both of them and he wouldn't be humiliated by it. He even kept Boy's snowball, such as it was, as well as Paul's mother for some sixty years thereafter. No, Ramsay was not going to be humiliated by this, nor was he going to be bullied away from it this time. What a traitor one's conscience could be! Was it not Boy who saw to Ramsay's well-being for close to forty years? Had he not been tolerant of his boyhood friend's sharp tongue? Had he not in the end forgiven him for the way that he had fawned over his wife all those years ago? No, one's conscience is not one's friend in the end, and, thought Boy, would always betray him.

This new Eisengrim character on the other hand, now this was someone who could maybe understand Boy. He had come to see the Soirée of Illusions a second time in hopes of catching something of the conjurer that he had missed at first glance, something underneath the elegance and intrigue, something that suggested the Deptford boy that ran away with the circus

What Boy found instead was more intrigue, more mystery. He found a Deptford boy who was as properly un-Deptford as Boy was Boy himself; possibly more so. What a paragon of dignity Paul Dempster had become! Such transformations, from parson's son to prince were just the kind of story Boy needed to feed off of, so that was exactly what Boy did. He choked on Ramsay and took his conscience and followed this new Deptford prince away. Oh, boy walked ahead, and did the driving, but all in a stupor of awe at Magnus Eisengrim's acquired royal stature.

It did not take much time talking alone with this prince of the stage for Boy to also understand how so unlike all Boy's princes Eisengrim was, possessing something none of them had had; something in the way he sat straight up, but with a casual dignity, and how he adjusted his trousers to make sure that the crease was always just-so, in the way he had waited for Boy to open the passenger door for him, that boy desperately needed.

The drive was filled with brief exchanges, the kind which always occur when two wolves meet each other to talk and between two people who want to know, but do not wish to tell. Boy would ask and Eisengrim would counter with a question of his own, which Boy would reject in turn and start fresh only to have Eisengrim bat the notion back at Boy yet again.

Occasionally an idea would get all the way to Eisengrim, and back to Boy, and then over again: Boy was royalty now... indeed Magnus, he was... named Lieutenant Governor just today... That was marvellous, must have made Boy's family very proud.

This was where Boy paused, but only inwardly. He nodded in a noncommittal kind of way and proceeded to prod the new prince with questions about the life of such a grand conjurer, surely nothing short of miracles could have moulded the Deptford waif into such a being, after all.

As he talked though, Boy fell always back on his new role. The scene was built, the stage was set, the costumes—and oh, what a stately costume it was at that—were tailored. Everyone was waiting with great impatience for the Rich Young Ruler to step in and, once again, rule.

So why didn't he want to do it?

On the verge of official recognition as everything that was Boy Staunton's ideal, everything that had been Percy Boyd Staunton's destiny, what was he doing getting cold feet?

Truthfully, if Boy wanted to, he could have answered that question all on his own. Royalty, it seemed, was nowhere near as grand or as fascinating or as youthful as his childhood obsessions had led him to believe. Royalty, it seemed, was old and stale and somewhat Deptford when one put it into full light. Boy had never, ever; as far back as he could remember, been proud of Deptford.

Then again, neither was Eisengrim. Magnus Eisengrim, the Prince of Whales of the conjuring Métier might as well have vomited at the first mention of his small Ontario hometown. Surely he was anything but Deptford; and yet, Eisengrim had that magic: the showy chivalry, the dignity, the mystique, the fashionable egoism. If ever anyone had acquired royalty before it was Magnus Eisengrim.

Eisengrim, however, showed no interest whatever in sharing his acquisition. Rather, he seemed far happier to listen, gently coaxing a kind of rambling monologue out of Boy.

That wasn't where Boy wanted to go, though. Boy was going to swallow Magnus and breathe new life into the royalty he had just been named into and it was not going to happen the other way around. Still, he could not stop talking, could not find the right questions to pull the really tasty bits out of Eisengrim, who offered only the tiniest bits of himself, just enough to keep Boy talking with little tastes which were inconsequential and nowhere near enough.

Still, he couldn't get at Eisengrim and it was maybe this which was most troubling. Could it have possibly been that the wolf's teeth had grown dull in their old age? Had some new, young wolf come to take his place? With expressions like that one could it have possibly been that he was slowly, quietly turning into Ramsay? Oh, how the thought disgusted him. He turned what was left of his childhood snowball over in his hands and allowed some comment from Eisengrim to wash idly over him without answering it; he wasn't getting from the new prince what he wanted and was no closer to a revelation as to how to acquire royalty the way Paul Dempster so obviously had. Why on Earth, then, should he keep talking? Certainly the Rich Young Ruler could choose to whom he did and didn't tell his innermost secrets, regardless of age! Except that there was no one left: Eisengrim was a wolf and Ramsay was a traitor and Deptford was behind him and really, was he even Ruler at all anymore?

From outside himself, and still turning the snowball over in his hands, Boy dismissed Eisengrim, a little too curtly maybe—but he was the Ruler, what did he care—and sped away. No longer what he had always been, and with no idea how to be anything else, Boy Staunton, Rich Young Ruler of Deptford, Toronto and, in his way, all of Canada for the last sixty years, swallowed his conscience and abdicated.