Once a young boy lived in a small village on the edge of a great empire. The empire was Christendom, the province Reformatia, and the village had the odd name of Splinter.
The elders of the village were solemn and august men, and usually sat on a long wooden bench in the village square, near the central fountain. The young boy was named Dougie and one day he was brought before the elders for throwing rocks at a tree on the outskirts of the village. But once he got there, the way the concern unfolded was odd. Dougie was asked why he had been throwing rocks at the widow Smith’s window panes, and her house was near the middle of the village. Dougie defended himself, but assured the elders that he had no intention of doing anything of the kind. He admitted having thrown rocks, but not there, and not with any evil intent. “Ah,” the elders said. “We are glad you have admitted to throwing the rocks. That shows an admirable spirit.”
The elders all nodded together, and Dougie, although glad not to be in deep trouble, was somewhat bothered by this confused and confusing vindication. He felt like they thought he had promised to stop heaving rocks at the widow lady’s house when he had never started. Having been told that such activity made other people nervous, and exhorted on the value of private property, Dougie promised not to do anything like that (although he thought to himself that anyone made nervous by this virtuous activity on the edge of town probably already was nervous).
But as he turned to go, the chief of the elders stopped him, and it then became apparent that his rocks were not the real reason he had gotten into trouble. “Is it true that you have been recently playing with that Lusk boy?” the elder asked.
“Well, yes,” said the defendent.
“We understand from our sources that he has been pitching rocks at the bell in the church tower. As you well know, that bell is the article of a standing or falling church. This is why the bell must hang there securely, and never be rung. If that Lusk boy gets lucky, we might have ourselves an unauthorized ringing. Why do you keep company with him?”
Different thoughts crowded into Dougie’s mind, and jumbled there all together, and unfortunately, not one of them could really be spoken aloud. One was that the elders were not likely to have understood the Lusk boy any better than they had understood him. Another was that it seemed odd why he was bad for playing with that Lusk boy when the Lusk boy wasn’t good for returning the favor. And third, it came pressing hard into his mind that throwing rocks at the bell in the tower was a great idea.