A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters (9 page)

At this moment a large, unathletic American in a blue shirt
got to his feet and started running down the aisle towards the Arabs. Their guns had not been set to fire only one shot at a time. The noise was very loud and immediately there was a lot of blood. An Italian sitting in the line of fire received a bullet in the head and fell across his wife’s lap. A few people got up and quickly sat down again. The leader of the Black Thunder group looked at his watch and waved at Hughes to continue. Franklin took a long swig of stale water. He wished it were something stronger. ‘Because of the stubbornness of the Western governments,’ he went on, trying to sound now more like an official spokesman than Franklin Hughes, ‘and their reckless disregard for human life, it is necessary for sacrifices to be made. You will have understood the historical inevitability of this from what I have said before. The Black Thunder group has every confidence that the Western governments will swiftly come to the negotiating table. In a final effort to make them do so it will be necessary to execute two of you … of us … every hour until that point. The Black Thunder group finds this course of action regrettable, but the Western governments leave them no alternative. The order of executions has been decided according to the guilt of the Western nations for the situation in the Middle East.’ Franklin could no longer look at his audience. He dropped his voice, yet could not avoid being heard as he went on. ‘Zionist Americans first. Then other Americans. Then British. Then French, Italians and Canadians.’

‘What the fuck has Canada ever done in the Middle East? What the fuck?’ shouted a man still wearing a towelling maple-leaf hat. He was restrained from getting up by his wife. Franklin, who felt the heat from the metal floor of his cage to be unendurable, shuffled his notes together automatically, stepped off the podium without looking at anyone, walked up the aisle, getting blood on his crêpe soles as he stepped past the dead American, ignored the three Arabs, who could shoot him if they wanted to, and went without escort or opposition to his cabin. He locked the door and lay down on his bunk.

Ten minutes later there came the noise of shooting. From five o’clock to eleven o’clock, punctually on the hour like some
terrible parody of a municipal clock, gunfire pealed. Splashes followed, as the bodies were flung over the rail in pairs. Shortly after eleven, twenty-two members of the American Special Forces, who had been trailing the
Santa Euphemia
for fifteen hours, managed to get on board. In the battle six more passengers, including Mr Talbot, the honorary American citizen from Kidderminster, were shot dead. Out of the eight visitors who had helped load supplies at Rhodes, five were killed, two after they had surrendered.

Neither the leader nor the second-in-command survived, so there remained no witness to corroborate Franklin Hughes’s story of the bargain he had struck with the Arabs. Tricia Maitland, who had become Irish for a few hours without realizing it, and who in the course of Franklin Hughes’s lecture had returned her ring to the finger where it originally belonged, never spoke to him again.


the Archives Municipales de Besançon (section CG, boîte 377a). The following case, hitherto unpublished, is of particular interest to legal historians in that the
procureur pour les insectes
was the distinguished jurist Bartholomé Chassenée (also Chassanée and Chasseneux), later first president of the Parlement de Provence. Born in 1480, Chassenée made his name before the ecclesiastical court of Autun defending rats which had been charged with feloniously destroying a crop of barley. The following documents, from the opening
pétition des habitans
to the final judgment of the court, do not represent the entire proceedings – for instance, the testimony of witnesses, who might be anything from local peasants to distinguished experts on the behavioural patterns of the defendants, has not been recorded – but the legal submissions embody and often specifically refer to the evidence, and thus there is nothing absent from the essential structure and argument of the case. As was normal at the time, the pleas and the
conclusions du procureur épiscopal
were made in French, while the sentence of the court was solemnly delivered in Latin

Translator’s note:
The manuscript is continuous and all in the same hand. Thus we are not dealing with the original submissions as penned by each lawyer’s clerk, but with the work of a third party, perhaps an official of the court, who may have omitted sections of the pleas. Comparison with the contents of boîtes 371-379 suggests that the case as it exists in this form was perhaps part of a set of exemplary or typical proceedings used in the training of jurists. This conjecture is supported by the fact that only Chassenée among the participants is identified by name, as if students were being directed to examine the instructive dexterity of a distinguished defence counsel, regardless of the result of the case. The handwriting belongs to the first half of the sixteenth century, so that if, as may be, the document is a copy of someone else’s version of the trial, it is still contemporary. I have done my best to render the sometimes extravagant style of pleading – especially of the unnamed
procureur des habitans –
into a comparable English.)

Pétition des habitans

We, the inhabitants of Mamirolle in the diocese of Besançon, being fearful of Almighty God and humbly dutiful to his spouse the Church, and being furthermore most regular and obedient in the payment of our tithes, do hereby on this twelfth day of August 1520 most pressingly and urgently petition the court to relieve and disburden us of the felonious intervention of those malefactors which have infested us already for many seasons, which have brought upon us God’s wrath and a shameful libel upon our habitation, and which threaten all of us, God-fearing and obedient in our duties to the Church as we are, with immediate and catastrophic death being flung down at us from above like clamorous thunder, which will surely come to pass unless the court in its solemn wisdom do not speedily and justly expel these malefactors from our village, conjuring them to depart, hateful and intolerable as they are, under pain of condemnation, anathema and excommunication from the Holy Church and the Dominion of God.

Plaidoyer des habitans

Gentlemen, these poor and humble petitioners, wretched and distressed, come before you as once did the inhabitants of the isles of Minorca and Majorca before the mighty Augustus Caesar, begging him in his justice and power to rid their islands of those rabbits which were destroying their crops and ruining their livelihood. If Augustus Caesar was able to help those dutiful subjects, how much more easily may this court lift the oppressive burden which lies upon the shoulders of your petitioners as heavily as when the great Aeneas did carry his father Anchises from the burning city of Troy. The old Anchises was blinded by a bolt of lightning, and these your petitioners are
even now as if blinded, cast into darkness out of the light of the Lord’s blessing, by the felonious behaviour of those who stand accused in this case, and yet who have not even appeared before the court to answer the charges, being contemptuous of this tribunal and blaspheming towards God, preferring instead to bury themselves in sinful darkness rather than face the truth of light.

Know, gentlemen, what has already been put before you by witnesses of humble faith and unimpeachable honesty, simple petitioners too trepid of this court to let anything but the clear fountain of truth flow from their mouths. They have testified to the events of the twenty-second day of the month of April in this year of Our Lord, which being the day of the annual pilgrimage of Hugo, Bishop of Besançon, to the humble church of Saint-Michel in their village. They have described to you, in detail which burns in your memory like the fiery furnace from which Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came unscathed, how as in every year they had adorned and beautified their church to make it worthy for the eye of the Bishop to behold, how they had caused flowers to be placed upon the altar and the door to be made freshly safe against the irruption of animals, but how, though they might bar the door to the pig and the cow, they were unable to bar the door to those diabolic
which crawl through the smallest hole even as David found the chink in Goliath’s armour. They have told you how they lowered by rope from the rafters the Bishop’s throne, which is tethered there from one year’s end to the next and is descended only for the day of the Bishop’s pilgrimage, lest any child or stranger might by chance sit on it and thereby profane it, this being a humble and devout tradition, fully worthy of the praise of God and of this court. How the throne, being lowered, was placed before the altar as it has been every year since the oldest Methuselah in the habitation can remember, and how the prudent villagers set a guard upon it through the night before the arrival of the Bishop, so heedful were they that the throne be not defiled. And how the next day Hugo, Bishop of Besançon, did come in his annual pilgrimage, like Gracchus coming among his beloved people,
to the humble church of Saint-Michel, and was pleased by their devotion and true faith. And how, having first as was his custom given his general blessing to the villagers of Mamirolle from the step of the church, he went in procession up the nave of the church, followed at subservient distance by his flock, and prostrated himself, even in the finery of his apparel, before the altar, just as Jesus Christ prostrated himself before his Almighty Father. Then he rose, ascended the simple step to the altar, turned to face the congregation and lowered himself upon his throne. Oh malevolent day! Oh malevolent invaders! And how the Bishop fell, striking his head upon the altar step and being hurled against his will into a state of imbecility. And how, when the Bishop and his retinue had departed, bearing off the Bishop in a state of imbecility, the terrified petitioners did examine the Bishop’s throne and discover in the leg that had tumbled down like the walls of Jericho a vile and unnatural infestation of woodworm, and how these woodworm, having secretly and darkly gone about their devilish work, had so devoured the leg that the Bishop did fall like mighty Daedalus from the heavens of light into the darkness of imbecility. And how, being much fearful of the wrath of God, the petitioners did climb up to the roof of the church of Saint-Michel and examine the cradle in which the throne had rested for three hundred and sixty-four days of the year, and how they found that woodworm had also infested the cradle so that it broke apart when they touched it and fell sacrilegiously down upon the altar steps, and how the timbers of the roof were all found to be vilely tainted by those diabolic
, which made the petitioners apprehensive for their own lives, since they are both poor and devout, and their poverty would not permit them to build a new church, while their devotion commands them to worship their Holy Father as fervently as they have always done and in a sacred place not among the fields and woods.

Hear, Gentlemen, therefore, the petition of these humble villagers, wretched as the grass beneath the foot. They are accustomed to many plagues, to the locusts that darken the sky like the hand of God passing over the Sun, to the ravages of rats
that lay waste as did the boar to the environs of Calydon as narrated by Homer in the first book of the Iliad, to the weevil which devours the grain in their winter storehouse. How much more vile and malevolent, therefore, is this plague which attacks the grain which the villagers have stored up in Heaven by their humble piety and their payment of tithes. For these malefactors, disrespectful even to this day of your court, have offended God by attacking his House, they have offended his spouse the Church by casting Hugo, Bishop of Besançon, into the darkness of imbecility, they have offended these petitioners by threatening to bring the framework and fabric of their church tumbling down upon the innocent heads of children and infants even as the village is at prayer, and it is therefore right and reasonable and necessary for the court to injunct and enjoin these animals to quit their habitation, to withdraw from the House of God, and for the court to pronounce upon them the necessary anathemata and excommunications prescribed by our Holy Mother, the Church, for which your petitioners do ever pray.

Plaidoyer des insectes

Since, Gentlemen, it has pleased you to appoint me procurator for the
in this case, I shall endeavour to explain to the court how the charges against them are null and void, and how the case must be non-suited. To begin with, I confess I am astonished that my clients, who have committed no crime, have been treated as if they were the worst criminals known to this court, and that my clients, though notoriously dumb, have been summoned to explain their behaviour as if they were accustomed to employ the human tongue while going about their daily business. I shall, in all humility, attempt to make my speaking tongue do service for their silent tongue.

Since you have permitted me to speak on behalf of these unfortunate animals, I will state, in the first place, that this court lacks the jurisdiction to try the defendants, and that the summons issued against them has no validity, for it implies that
the recipients are endowed with reason and volition, being thereby capable both of committing a crime and of answering a summons for the trial of the said crime. Which is not the case, since my clients are brute beasts acting only from instinct, and which is confirmed by the first book of the
, at the paragraph
Si quadrupes
, where it is written
Nec enim potest animal injuriam fecisse, quod sensu caret

In the second place, additionally and alternatively, I will submit that even if the court were to have jurisdiction over the
, it would be unreasonable and unlawful for the present tribunal to consider their case, for it is a well-known and long-established principle that the accused may not be tried
in absentia
. It has been stated that the woodworm have been formally summoned by writ to appear before this court on this particular day, and have insolently refused to appear, thereby forfeiting their normal rights and permitting them to be tried
in absentia
. Against this argument I propose two counterarguments. First, that while the summons for attendance was properly issued, have we any proof that it was accepted by the
? For it is established that a writ must not just be issued but delivered, and the procurator
pour les habitans
has failed to indicate in what manner the woodworm did acknowledge the writ. Secondly, and further, it is a principle even more firmly established in the annals of the law that a defendant may be excused default or non-appearance if it can be shown that the length or difficulty or danger of the journey renders it impossible for attendance at the court safely to be made. If you summoned a rat before you, would you expect it to proceed to your court while passing through a town full of cats? And on this point, not only is the distance from the abode of the
to the court a monstrous league for them to travel, it is also one which they would accomplish under mortal threat from those predators which attend on their humble lives. They may, therefore, in safety and in legality and with all respect to this tribunal courteously refuse to obey the writ.

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