It was medieval times in Merry Olde England and tales of knights and dragons, sorcery and witchcraft still held sway over the land. Superstition was rampant and those who could foretell the future were held in high esteem. Revered for being at the top of her profession was Madame Lazonga, a woman who had grown wealthy through necromancy on behalf of the common folk.
Madame Lazonga’s abilities came in visionary snatches from which she was able to deduce logical outcomes. In one such trance, she even foresaw her own untimely end. She would meet a violent death at the hands of a vicious murderer. This made her more cautious in her everyday dealings. She became overly protective of her private life and turned miserly to a fault. She wouldn’t share her riches with anyone, not even her only child, her daughter Angelina.
Angelina, in the full bloom of youth, was a stunner. She had russet-coloured hair down past her shoulders, hazel-flecked eyes and a curvaceous frame that brought many men to kneel at her altar. Unbeknownst to most, however, her sexiest feature was her brain. Also a secret to the world at large was the fact Angelina had a lover among the nobility, Lord Flatley.
Lord Flatley was the bachelor scion of a once-noble family that had fallen out of favor with the king and was suffering the consequence. Dashing in appearance, athletic in aspect, but limited in intellect, he was flat broke, with wants beyond his means. Angelina was crazy in love with him.
Angelina harbored hopes for their relationship until one fateful day in the town square marketplace. For the first time ever, Lord Flatley approached Angelina and her mother in a public place. Madame Lazonga spotted him first. “That’s the man! There he is! He’s the one who’s going to murder me!” she cried out. An unseemly commotion ensued. The local citizens and a couple of soldiers descended on Lord Flatley and escorted him away. Angelina was aghast.
From then on, Madame Lazonga told anyone who would listen about Lord Flatley’s connection to her dream. This put a serious crimp in Angelina and Lord Flatley’s plans for their relationship. When next they met clandestinely, Angelina whispered her instructions in Lord Flatley’s ear.
The foregoing is background and prelude to a discussion before a regional magistrate one fine spring day, as the accused was brought forward to explain what happened to the victim.
MAGISTRATE: Would you please tell to me how it is you come to be standing before me today, Lord Flatley, in the matter of the notorious demise of Madame Lazonga?
LORD FLATLEY: Gladly, your honor. This is a situation that has been developing for some time. Madame Lazonga apparently had a premonition she would be murdered and, the first time she saw me, she cried out to all around her that I was the man she had seen in her vision.
MAGISTRATE: How many times did you actually encounter her?
LORD FLATLEY: Three times in all. Twice before yesterday. The first time, after she called out her accusation, I was taken into custody by local authorities and questioned about my intentions. When it was established that I had never before met the woman, I was released without trouble.
MAGISTRATE: And the next time?
LORD FLATLEY: On the second occasion, the woman again cried out that I would be her murderer. Again I was surrounded and taken away for interrogation. I could no longer say I knew not the woman. I had quite a bit more difficulty securing my release. Madame Lazonga is held in high regard in these parts. After my second incarceration, I did a great deal of thinking.
MAGISTRATE: And then you saw her again yesterday in the crowd at the marketplace?
LORD FLATLEY: That is correct. But this time I walked directly up to her and killed her. In fact, I made quite sure that she was dead. I strangled her, then stabbed her through the heart and finally held her head under water for a considerable period of time, at the horse-drinking trough. It went exactly according to plan. Everyone else was too stunned to react until it was over.
MAGISTRATE: Why did you do that sir?
LORD FLATLEY: Because I had done my research. Madame Lazonga was known to be a rich older woman. Someone was bound to rob and kill her someday. It was unlikely to be obvious who that person was and so I would be saddled with the crime. Then I would be hung or burned at the stake. Therefore, I decided to kill her myself in front of everyone, in self-defense.
MAGISTRATE: What an extraordinary notion. Is there more to your story?
LORD FLATLEY: Yes indeed, your honor. Madame Lazonga has never been known to be wrong in one of her predictions. My course of action was pre-determined. I had no option but to do her in. The integrity of my resolve can be seen in the fact I made no attempt to rob her of her jewellery. That, apparently, was her one vanity. In my mind, it was justifiable homicide.
MAGISTRATE: That’s your defense? That you were powerless to act in any other way? It is your contention that this whole case rests on how perfect the victim was in foreseeing the future?
LORD FLATLEY: Yes, your honor.
MAGISTRATE: My initial reaction is that you’re presenting me with a barrow-load of nonsense. Nevertheless, you must be one in a million to make such an assertion and then carry through on it. Very well, I’ll consider what you have said. Let’s hear from some other witnesses.
For the next several hours, peasant after peasant was called before the judge and confirmed how accurate Madame Lazonga was in predicting births, deaths, marriages and the many other life-altering events crucial to the ebb and flow of the village’s survival. Finally, the judge got around to speaking with the victim’s daughter. Like many men before him, he was smitten by her astonishing beauty, but prided himself on being able to maintain a workman-like demeanor.
MAGISTRATE: This whole case may ultimately rest on the accuracy of your mother’s predictions. Have you ever known her to be wrong, my child?
ANGELINA: No, absolutely not. That is to say, almost never.
MAGISTRATE: What do you mean? Explain yourself. This is important.
ANGELINA: Well there is a matter about which the outcome is still uncertain.
MAGISTRATE: And what might that be?
ANGELINA: It’s a personal affair, my lord.
MAGISTRATE: You must tell me anyway. A man’s life is in the balance.
ANGELINA: Very well, my lord. My mother foresaw that I would meet, marry and make very happy a magistrate before I turned 22 years old.
MAGISTRATE: I see. And when might that date be?
ANGELINA: That would be tomorrow, my lord.
This brought laughter and good-natured banter from the townspeople who were gathered around to watch the proceedings. Jocular in tone at first, and then more serious, the judge continued.
MAGISTRATE: Do tell. What an interesting coincidence of timing. And would such a marriage include an old dog like me, hypothetically speaking of course?
ANGELINA: I don’t see why not, my lord.
The magistrate was stunned. He had been alone since the death of his wife ten years prior. Angelina was a plum pudding smothered in cream. Myriad pleasurable thoughts spun around in his head. Still, he was a cagey old bird and had his suspicions. He continued with his probing.
MAGISTRATE: You don’t seem terribly upset about the death of your mother, my dear.
ANGELINA: It was not unexpected, my lord.
MAGISTRATE: Yes, that much has been clearly established. Do you know the defendant?
ANGELINA: No my lord.
MAGISTRATE: Is there something you would want from me as a wedding present? A pardon, perhaps, for this handsome young lad?
ANGELINA: No my lord. Only the pleasure of your company.
MAGISTRATE: And you would consider marrying me?
ANGELINA: Of course.
MAGISTRATE: Why, precisely?
ANGELINA: It would honor my mother’s memory and it would take away any possible stain on her record. Besides, you are a handsome and distinguished-looking older gentleman, my lord.
MAGISTRATE (unself-consciously rubbing his hands together with glee): Alright then. It seems that a number of us are being governed by forces over which we have no control. Release the prisoner. Angelina and I have other matters to attend to.
Henceforth, in legal circles, the justification for Lord Flatley’s acquittal was credited to the “No Free Will” argument. Courthouse wags dubbed it the Madame Lazonga defense.
After a tiny bump in the road, ending with the timely death of the magistrate as a result of a too brief interlude of vigorous physical activity, Angelina and Lord Flatley lived happily ever after.
What to try next? I recommend Queen’s Jester to King’s Betterment.