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|The Prince and the Pauper||Mark Twain|
Chapter XV. Tom as King.
|Page 6 of 7||
"On a midnight in December, in a ruined church, your Majesty."
Tom shuddered again.
"Who was there present?"
"Only these two, your grace--and THAT OTHER."
"Have these confessed?"
"Nay, not so, sire--they do deny it."
"Then prithee, how was it known?"
"Certain witness did see them wending thither, good your Majesty; this bred the suspicion, and dire effects have since confirmed and justified it. In particular, it is in evidence that through the wicked power so obtained, they did invoke and bring about a storm that wasted all the region round about. Above forty witnesses have proved the storm; and sooth one might have had a thousand, for all had reason to remember it, sith all had suffered by it."
"Certes this is a serious matter." Tom turned this dark piece of scoundrelism over in his mind a while, then asked--
"Suffered the woman also by the storm?"
Several old heads among the assemblage nodded their recognition of the wisdom of this question. The sheriff, however, saw nothing consequential in the inquiry; he answered, with simple directness- -
"Indeed did she, your Majesty, and most righteously, as all aver. Her habitation was swept away, and herself and child left shelterless."
"Methinks the power to do herself so ill a turn was dearly bought. She had been cheated, had she paid but a farthing for it; that she paid her soul, and her child's, argueth that she is mad; if she is mad she knoweth not what she doth, therefore sinneth not."
The elderly heads nodded recognition of Tom's wisdom once more, and one individual murmured, "An' the King be mad himself, according to report, then is it a madness of a sort that would improve the sanity of some I wot of, if by the gentle providence of God they could but catch it."
"What age hath the child?" asked Tom.
"Nine years, please your Majesty."
"By the law of England may a child enter into covenant and sell itself, my lord?" asked Tom, turning to a learned judge.
"The law doth not permit a child to make or meddle in any weighty matter, good my liege, holding that its callow wit unfitteth it to cope with the riper wit and evil schemings of them that are its elders. The DEVIL may buy a child, if he so choose, and the child agree thereto, but not an Englishman--in this latter case the contract would be null and void."
"It seemeth a rude unchristian thing, and ill contrived, that English law denieth privileges to Englishmen to waste them on the devil!" cried Tom, with honest heat.
This novel view of the matter excited many smiles, and was stored away in many heads to be repeated about the Court as evidence of Tom's originality as well as progress toward mental health.
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