A CERTAIN king, named Asmodeus, established an ordinance, by which every malefactor taken and brought before the judge, should distinctly declare three truths, against which no exception could be taken, or else be hanged. If, however, he did this, his life and property should be safe. It chanced that a certain soldier transgressed the law and fled. He hid himself in a forest, and there committed many atrocities, despoiling and slaying whomsoever he could lay his hands upon. When the judge of the district ascertained his haunt, he ordered the forest to be surrounded, and the soldier to be seized, and brought bound to the seat of judgment.
"You know the law," said the judge.
"I do," returned the other. "If I declare three unquestionable truths I shall be free; but if not, I must die."
"True," replied the judge; "take then advantage of the law's clemency, or undergo the punishment it awards without delay."
"Cause silence to be kept," said the soldier undauntedly.
His wish being complied with, he proceeded in the following manner: "The first truth is this. I protest before ye all, that from my youth up, I have been a bad man."
The judge, hearing this, said to the bystanders, "He says true?" They answered: "Else he had not now been in this situation." "Go on, then," said the judge. "What is the second truth?"
"I like not," exclaimed he, "the dangerous situation in which I stand."
"Certainly," said the judge, "we may credit thee. Now then for the third truth, and thou hast saved thy life."
"Why," he replied, "if I once get out of this confounded place, I will never willingly re-enter it."
"Amen," said the judge, "thy wit hath preserved thee; go in peace." And thus he was saved.