“Pacification,” by Virginia Revel

Dec 20th, 2019 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

The Prince stood at the palace windows, pensively perusing the panorama below. He was, from his own perspective, a progressive potentate. He protected his people from pirates and other predators. He promoted prosperity. He persecuted the peasants only when they were presumptuous, and he had recently postponed a projected purge of the petty bourgeoisie. Yet on this day he was preoccupied with problems.

The press portrayed him as power-hungry and peculiar. Pockmarks, and sometimes even pimples, were penciled on his portraits. Plainly, he needed to present a more positive picture of himself. After pondering his predicament, he proposed to propitiate the population by permitting some of his prisoners to plead for pardon.

A platform was put up in the principal piazza for this purpose, and the presiding prosecutor promptly took his place upon it. People from all precincts pressed forward to participate: plumbers, potters, pensioners, printers, and busy among them, pickpockets.

The first prisoner, a page in parti-colored pantaloons, had been found in possession of pearls belonging to the princess. He claimed he had only been polishing them and he was planning to put them back.

“Why didn’t you?” asked the prosecutor.

“The Prince pounced on me and I was petrified,” said the page.

“Poppycock,” said the prosecutor. “Next!”

A portly priest was propelled onto the platform, prodded in the posterior by a prison guard.

“Parishioners!” he burst out. “I preached about providence and predestination, as is the prerogative of my profession.”


“I tried to persuade the Prince to do penance for his peccadilloes.”

“Preposterous. The Prince is a paragon of piety,” said the prosecutor.

“Piffle!” cried a pugnacious porter in the piazza. “Put the priest back in his pulpit!”

The prosecutor pretended not to be perturbed, but he knew he was in a potentially perilous position. After a portentous pause, he pushed the priest aside and called for the next prisoner.

A puny publican emerged, pallid and patently pessimistic.

“I prepared a potion to give the Prince more pep,” he said.


“It came out pink and pulpy.”

“Why didn’t you pour it down a privy?”

“The Prince had already picked it up. It didn’t please his palate, so he had me put in prison as a poisoner.”

“Pitiful!” cried a prominent poet who was usually more prudent.

The fourth prisoner popped up prematurely from behind a pile of planks. “Patriots, pay attention!” he said. “I have been pent up since Pentecost and made to subsist on porridge and potato peelings. I, a peer of the realm!”

“That is because you were seen patting the princess while she was practicing a prelude on the pianoforte,” said the prosecutor.

“I was only pointing out the pianissimo part of the piece. But the Prince pinned me against the paneling and pummeled me till I was purple. The Prince will plague us in perpetuity if we placate him! We need political power! We need a parliamentary system as practiced in other places!”

“Precisely!” cried the porter.

The piazza began to pulse with proletarian passion, and the people spoke.

“The Prince should piss off!”

“Let’s pelt him with pebbles!”

“Let’s prick him with pitchforks!”

“Proceed to the palace, everyone” cried the peer, “and as you go, pry up the paving stones!”

A prey to panic, the Prince paced up and down. He would have preferred to mount his prancing palomino, pick up a pike, and punish the protesters personally, but because they were as plentiful as protozoa, this was not practical. Instead he procured a piece of paper and penned a new program. He promised more pay and prestige to everyone, particularly pages, priests, and publicans. He proclaimed that he and the princess were planning a protracted pilgrimage, and that while they were gone, the peer could be president.

When presented with this plan, the protesters pronounced it passable, the peer, perfect. People put down their projectiles, pubs provided them with pints, and presently, throughout the province, there was peace.


Virginia Revel grew up in the U.S. but has lived in Europe for many years. She writes speeches and diplomatic correspondence for a living and fiction for fun. She rides, paints, and watches fish in the Schoenbrunn aquarium.

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