The Prince and the Pauper Chapters 23-24 Summary
by Mark Twain

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Chapters 23-24 Summary

A constable approaches, but Edward resists any attempt to take him to the court for questioning. Miles warns him that he should submit himself to the law just as any of the king’s subjects would since the law of England is even more supreme than the monarch.

Edward sees the wisdom of this and allows himself to be brought before the justice of the peace. When the woman’s package is revealed, it is a dressed pig, which the woman claims is worth three shillings and eightpence.

At this, the justice orders the court cleared and the doors closed. He warns the woman that any one who thieves something above the value of thirteen pence ha’penny is subject to the death penalty. He pleads for her to change the value, considering Edward a poor boy driven to theft by starvation. The woman relents and values the pig at eightpence.

She is released from the court, but the constable follows her. Miles sneaks out to eavesdrop on the conversation that the constable has with the woman. The constable offers to buy the dressed pig for eightpence, but the woman objects that it is worth more than that. He warns her that she swore on oath to the reduced value. Faced with prosecution for perjury, the woman gives the constable the pig.

Edward is sentenced to a short imprisonment followed by a public flogging. When he objects to this, Miles tells him to trust him. As the constable takes Edward to jail, Miles approaches the official and tells him to let the boy escape. The constable is shocked at the suggestion, but Miles repeats the conversation that he overheard.

The constable objects that he had just plagued the woman in jest, but Miles asks if he then kept the pig in jest. Miles says that the constable effectively stole the pig from the poor woman. Since the pig was valued initially as being worth three shillings and eightpence, the constable is now subject to the same death penalty that would have been handed down to Edward.

He tells the constable that he will ask the justice of the peace if such jesting is protected by the law, but the constable stops him and asks for mercy for the sake of his wife and children. Miles agrees, as long as the constable does not prevent Edward from escaping. The constable swears that he will become deaf, speechless, and paralyzed when Miles comes to rescue Edward from the jail cell. Miles thanks him, stating that he doubts that justice will be harsh for the escape of a poor boy.